UVic mulls creation of new faculty with health-based focus

A new faculty would unite the 200-plus academics at UVic currently involved in health research.

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VICTORIA — The University of Victoria is considering establishing a new faculty focused on the study of health to raise its competitiveness in B.C.’s growing health-education sector.

The project is explained in a memo to the university senate from UVic academic leaders Elizabeth Croft, vice-president academic and provost, and Helga Hallgrímsdóttir, deputy provost.

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“UVic is not contemplating a medical school. Instead, we seek to serve a different need for the province with respect to community and allied health,” the memo said, adding that UVic’s existing interdisciplinary health programs would be merged into the new faculty.

Currently, the University of B.C. has the only medical school — which trains doctors — in the province. However, Simon Fraser University is working to open a medical school at its Surrey campus.

The memo noted that is creating additional urgency for UVic to raise its health profile in an increasingly competitive post-secondary environment.

Since May, preliminary work on developing the faculty has been entrusted to an ad hoc committee of 21. The university conducted an online survey in September asking students, staff and faculty for their opinions.

UVic’s web page about the new health-related faculty said that planning and consultation will likely continue for months, and that few concrete decisions have been made.

“Trust is essential for any change of this size to be successful,” the university said. “We will seek to earn support from faculty and staff early on — especially those potentially affected by this work.”

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Erin Campbell, vice-president of the UVic Faculty Association, said that its members are both keen and concerned about development of a new faculty.

“This could potentially bring us more students, more funding, more interdisciplinary research. In a sense, it’s highlighting what we already do and bringing that more to the surface.

“As a communications tool, I think it’s going to be fantastic,” she said, adding that not everyone is aware of the massive work that’s being conducted in the health area at UVic.

A new faculty that aims to bring together about 200 academics at UVic currently involved in health-related teaching and research would constitute one of the most significant structural changes at the university since the early 1990s, when the Faculty of Arts and Sciences was split into three.

“It’s always nerve-racking when units merge or amalgamate or move, and the process and people that you’re used to change,” she said.

UVic has yet to determine which departments or faculties will be included in the changes, but Campbell said that the faculty of human and social development will be the likeliest starting point.

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The university has 10 faculties as well as a medical sciences division, which primarily supports Vancouver Island’s medical doctor program in partnership with UBC medical school.

There have been internal discussions of potentially creating a shared health research facility at UVic since 2021.

A progress update on creation of the new faculty is expected to be presented at the university senate by the end of 2023.

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Originally posted 2023-10-05 00:15:35.