Academic Unit Nomenclature: Characteristics and Guidelines

Approval Authority: Senate


Academic Policy and Planning Committee

Under the terms of the York Act, the Board of Governors is responsible for the formal approval of academic units (specifically cited are “faculties, schools and institutes”).In an effort to provide assistance in the process leading to formal approval, APPC has undertaken to define certain key terms that refer to academic units within the University. The purpose of this document is not to require the re-naming of existing units. Rather, it is to provide guidance in the future to those who must decide upon terminology to distinguish new units, or units that are seeking to be restructured and renamed. The goal is to achieve, over time, greater clarity and coherence across the University in the ways that these key terms are used. The approach taken has been to identify those characteristics that distinguish units from one another.

Principal Characteristics of Major Units at York

 Unit

 Characteristics

Academic Leadership

 Faculty A Faculty:

  • is constituted by a critical mass of faculty members sharing a broadly-defined disciplinary or trans-disciplinary orientation in teaching, research and training;
  • has the capacity to develop and administer standards for research, teaching, and professional contribution through its administrative and governance processes;
  • is invested, through its council, with a meaningful measure of authority to define and undertake academic initiatives, within parameters defined by Senate;
  • houses distinctive and often exclusive degrees and associated programs;
  • has the capacity to make faculty appointments, subject to the necessary formal approvals;
  • enjoys relative autonomy in the setting of budgets related to academic initiatives, subject to necessary formal approvals.
 Normally headed by a Dean
 School   A School:

  • may be either an entire Faculty or a distinct part of a Faculty
  • is characterized by a common purpose and dedicated focus on related teaching, research and academic activities;
  • normally offers programs that are multi-disciplinary, pan-disciplinary or professional in nature and that are not typically sub-divided by disciplines;
  • tends to have the capacity to define and deliver curriculum and programs with a professional orientation, including studies leading to externally-recognized accreditation;
  • is associated with a specific and, normally, with distinctive programs and degrees.
 Normally headed by a Dean for Faculty and Faculty type schools, otherwise by a Director
 Department   A Department:

  • is normally part of a Faculty, and houses a sub-discipline or collection of sub-disciplines of the Faculty;
  • undertakes activities that are more focused than those of a Faculty;
  • is responsible for determining appointment priorities and selecting candidates, subject to Faculty–level approval;
  • requires a critical mass of faculty members to define and achieve its objectives;
  • has less autonomy than a Faculty in decision-making that involves budgeting, planning, and academic standards.
 Normally headed by a Chair
 Division   A Division:

  • is normally applied to an administrative rather than academic unit (although there are two in the Faculty of Arts at present)
  • the term Divisions is insufficiently distinctive from Department
  • the term will not normally be used in the titles of academic units that are proposed in the future.
 Normally headed by the President or a Vice-President
 Program   A Program:

  • is an administrative entity termed normally defined by its curriculum;
  • does not normally or necessarily support research activities
  • offers a coherent set of related courses associated with degrees;
  • is often interdisciplinary in nature, and may cross Faculty boundaries;
  • does not normally have the capacity to make faculty appointments and is normally reliant on other units, such as Departments or Schools, for its genesis and support;
  • Is associated with degrees that are not normally distinct even if they are distinguishable.
Normally headed by a Director or Co-ordinator
 Research Centre    A Centre:

  • Is a formal collaboration of a critical mass of scholars who share common research and professional interests in a clearly defined area which has the central purpose of fostering a vibrant and ongoing programme of collaborative research and is contained within a single Faculty and receives support from the Faculty for its initiatives
  • Reports to the Dean of the Faculty
  • Is encouraged to include the word “research” in its title; has the option of including “York” in its title
  • Supports teaching and fosters the training of graduate students
  • May have links to one or several departments
  • May have associations with post-doctoral fellows, visiting professors, adjunct professors, graduate students, other scholars and researchers, other universities, or professional/private organizations
  • May be associated with an endowment or endowed chair(s) or with an undergraduate certificate or graduate diploma
  • liaises with the Office of the Vice-President Research & Innovation for centralized expertise and accountability for the Centre’s financial, administrative and human-resources management
 Normally headed by a Director
 Research Institute  An Institute:

  • Is a formal collaboration of a critical mass of scholars who share common research and professional interests in a clearly defined area which has the central purpose of fostering a vibrant and ongoing programme of collaborative research and is a pan-university unit involving members from several Faculties
  • Receives support for its initiatives from and reports to the Vice-President Research & Innovation
  • Is encouraged to include the word “research” in its title; has the option of including “York” in its title
  • Supports teaching and fosters the training of graduate students
  • May have associations with post-doctoral fellows, visiting professors, adjunct professors, graduate students, other scholars and researchers, other universities, or professional/private organizations
  • May be associated with an endowment or endowed chair(s) or with an undergraduate certificate or graduate diploma
  • liaises with the Office of the Vice-President Research & Innovation for centralized expertise and accountability for the Centre’s financial, administrative and human-resources management
 Normally headed by a Director