Dropping Faculties is Not as Important as Reorganizing Departments: Considerable savings could be achieved by amalgamating departments with few than 10 faculty members.

Commentary, Education, Rodney Clifton

A recent article, “U of M to drop faculties in reorganization” (Winnipeg Free Press, January 20, B1), reports that President David Barnard is considering amalgamating up to 6 of the 18 teaching faculties at the University of Manitoba.  In fact, President Barnard said that: “There are so many faculties it is difficult to manage communications and to bring cross-disciplinary departments and staff together….”  “There is duplication of administration and support services.”

I agree.  But, a much better idea is to collapse a number of the departments where the duplication actually occurs.

For example, there are four departments that focus on teaching people how to administer organizations: Business Administration in the I.H. Asper School of Business, Educational Administration in the Faculty of Education, Public Administration in the Department of Political Studies, and Recreational Administration in the Faculty of Kinesiology and Recreational Management.  Also, there is a Department of Food Sciences in the Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences and a Department of Human Nutritional Sciences in the Faculty of Human Ecology.  And, there is a Faculty of Pharmacy and a Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics in the Faculty of Medicine.

At the U of M, there are 86 teaching units, including departments in most faculties and faculties without departments.  Surprisingly, 14 per cent have five or fewer faculty members; 31 per cent have between six and 10; and only 53 per cent have more than 11 faculty members.

For example, the School of Agriculture in the Faculty of Agriculture and Food Sciences has no professors and only 2.85 instructors; the Department of Textile Sciences in the Faculty of Human Ecology has three faculty members; and the Department of Icelandic Studies in the Faculty of Arts has only one faculty member.  Finally, one wonders why the Faculty of Medicine has two small departments specializing in medical education: the Department of Medical Education with 2.65 faculty members and the Department of Continuing Medical Education with four faculty members.

Obviously, there is considerable feather-bedding and duplication of courses and programs that have been created when money was plentiful.  Those times are over, however.  Now, it is important to combine departments that deliver similar courses and programs and to reorganize small departments into larger units with, say, a minimum of 10 faculty members.

These two changes would save the university a considerable amount of money that is now spent on administration and support services.  Students and taxpayers would appreciate spending less on the university’s bureaucratic structure.

Furthermore, ushering in these changes would release between 30 and 40 administrators to return to teaching courses.  Students would appreciate having more courses to choose from and having fewer classmates in their large first-year classes.

It may surprise some people to learn that only about 43 per cent of the U of M’s employees are actually engaged in teaching while 57 per cent are engaged in other things.

Because there are increasingly more paper-pushers and hand-holders than teachers at the U of M, President David Barnard should focus on restructuring departments so that fewer professors are administering small overlapping departments and more are teaching courses–particularly undergraduate courses.