General Faculties Council
With the University's closing in on its centenary and the City of Edmonton's becoming home to thousands of new residents each year, there is bound to be a lack of space. This bursting-at-the-seams feeling is familiar to the Faculty of Arts. With more students come more activities. The Facilities Development Committee granted the Faculty of Arts permission to put together a General Space Programme proposal to make recommendations about future areas of growth, particularly in graduate student enrollment, faculty numbers, and intensity of research. The proposal outlines the challenges and opportunities faced by the Faculty of Arts and concentrates on the need for re-allocating space. To that end, HUB Mall and parts of the Civil Engineering Building and Pembina Hall have been allocated to Arts for their current needs. The Facilities Development Committee of the GFC was delighted with the scope and findings of the General Space Programme.
The General Faculties Council (GFC) shares legislative governance of the University of Alberta with the Board of Governors. While the latter is responsible for the business aspects of governance, GFC governs all academic matters. These two bodies jointly govern the University of Alberta and meet throughout the year to ensure their policies and efforts are working in concert for the betterment of the University.
Academic business such as the conferring of degrees and the making of recommendations concerning affiliations with other academic institutions, appointments, salaries, tenures, and dismissals all fall within the mandate of GFC. Any academic matter of interest to the University is under the control of GFC.
GFC sets the University Calendar and the Academic Schedule, as well as policy on admission of students and on non-academic staff lecturing on campus. GFC is responsible for the University’s courses and programs, and for setting the conduct of and dates for examinations. It must hear and make recommendations regarding all matters brought before it by Faculty Councils. Student appeals are handled through GFC. The University Libraries are governed by GFC which sets rules and regulations for their management and operation.
When there is a need for a new faculty or department, GFC makes recommendations, through the President, to the Board of Governors. To facilitate their shared authority, the Board of Governors and GFC report to one another at meetings and share seven members: the President, Students' Union President, Graduate Students’ Association President, an undergraduate student, a member of the Non-Academic Staff Association, a member of the Association of Academic Staff, and a GFC nominee to the Board of Governors.
Legislation describing the power and authority of the GFC is the Post-Secondary Learning Act of 2004, which describes the roles of the Board of Governors, GFC, Faculty Councils, and Department Councils to debate and pass policies.
The General Faculties Council Policy Manual has 126 sections and among other academic matters, it describes appeal procedures, awards, the Conflict of Interest and Animal Welfare Policies, research policies, strategic planning, and student affairs. The Policy Manual is updated on the World Wide Web on a monthly basis.
GFC was formally created by the University Act of 1942. The University Act of 1966 altered the structure of GFC so that faculty members were added to the membership of GFC while department chairs were no longer considered members.
Today GFC consists of 155 members. Eighty-two of those members are statutory members: they are identified in the Post-Secondary Learning Act. These 82 members appoint 40 undergraduate and 12 graduate students, as well as 21 others to GFC. Bringing in members from the University community creates ties with other organizations, a practice that fosters wise governance. Indeed, GFC relies on advice from the Executive Planning Committee, President’s Executive Committee, President’s Advisory Committee of Chairs, Students’ Union, Graduate Students’ Association, Alumni Council, Non-academic Staff Association, Association of Academic Staff, Senate, Dean’s Council, and the Provost’s Advisory Council of Deans. Details about the appointment of members may be found in the General Faculties Council Policy manual.
GFC meets once a month, usually on the last Monday of the month, except during holidays and times of university closure; during mid-terms and final exams; and during Reading Week. All GFC meetings are open to the general public. The meeting schedule is posted on the World Wide Web.
GFC, like the Senate and the Board of Governors, delegates authority to a number of committees to fulfill requirements of its governance. There are nine standing committees and three boards. The Standing Committees are the Committee on the Learning Environment, Academic Standards Committee Subcommittee on Standards and Executive/Nominating, Academic Planning, Facilities Development, Academic Standards,Campus Law Review, Undergraduate Awards and Scholarship, and University Teaching Awards Committees.
The Boards are the Academic Appeals Committee, University Appeal Board, and GFC Practice Review Board.
The Executive/Nominating Committee makes recommendations about academic proposals and student affairs and is responsible for any matter that is delegated to it by the GFC, including urgent matters and the nomination of the best candidate to various committees
The Academic Planning Committee manages academic, planning, and financial matters.
The Facilities Development Committee is responsible for recommendations related to campus planning and facilities.
The Committee on the Learning Environment ensures that the University has the best learning environment possible. This committee works to ensure that there is excellence in teaching and in information resources available to the University community.
The Academic Standards Committee Subcommittee on Standards is responsible for standards, policy, regulations, definitions, and admission requirements that affect undergraduate students.
The Academic Standards Committee is concerned with academic standing, admission, and transfer and makes recommendation to GFC and to the Academic Planning Committee.
The Undergraduate Awards and Scholarship Committee makes recommendations about undergraduate awards policy.
Together with the Board of Governors, GFC represents the academic governing authority of the University of Alberta.