What you need to know about the University of Guelph's Program Prioritization Process (PPP)

Monday, October 7, 2013


Written by Alice Lin

Last week, on October 2, the University released the Program Prioritization Process Task Force Report that included the result of program rankings and recommendations for the University to maintain a balanced structural budget. The process began last year when the University of Guelph projected a funding gap of $32.4 million where UoG subsequently began to take action to reduce this deficit in the form of the ‘Program Prioritization Process’ (PPP). This process reviewed the University’s academic, non-academic, as well as various other University services. This article summarizes the 81 page report and is aimed to help unveil some of the misconceptions and frequently asked questions about the PPP.


Why is this happening?
This process mainly stemmed from the fact that governments will no longer provide the same funding to post-secondary institutions the same way they have in the past. As a result, the University of Guelph implemented the PPP to assess both academic and non-academic programs as well as other University services such as Physical Resources, Hospitality Services and Athletic Services. The overall goal of the PPP is to identify where the strengths and weaknesses are at the UoG. The final outcome of the report provides recommendations to programs and services that may be underperforming, need restructuring or would benefit from additional funding.


How are the academic/non-academic programs and services ranked?
Programs were grouped into either instructional (degree-credit programs) and non-instructional (includes activities in academic and non-academic units). Ten criteria were chosen to assess a program’s impact and essentiality. They are weighed to a total of 100 points:

  1. History and Development of the program(5 points)
  2. External Demand (10 points)
  3. Internal Demand (10 points)
  4. Quality of Program Inputs (10 points)
  5. Quality of Program Outcomes (15 points)
  6. Size and Productivity (12 points)
  7. Revenue and other resources generated (8 points)
  8. Cost and other associated expenses (10 points)
  9. Impact, justification (15 points)
  10. Opportunity Analysis (5 points)

Final scores were rated using a rubric with the following three categorie--below expectation (multiplied by 1); meet expectations (multiplied by 2); and above expectation (multiplied by 3). The total score was calculated by multiplying the weight of each of the ten criterions by the rubric system. For ties, a computer program was used. Final scores generated for the most important and highest scoring criteria are then ordered into a descending order and placed into five quintiles.


Your program is not necessarily going to get ‘cut’ because it ranked poorly.
There is a lot of misconception about all the programs and services that ranked poorly on the report are on the University’s chopping block. This is not true. The ranking is not a determinant of such decisions. Instead, it is a tool to help college deans, chairs, directors and managers in forming a more comprehensive budget. Any decisions to implement such plans according to the new budgets will go through the University’s governance process that will end with the Board of Governors and Senate.

The [PPP] process identified areas of strengths and weaknesses and areas that are candidates for further consideration for investment, reinvestment or divestment as well as areas that have revenue growth capability.

Again, the PPP is simply an assessment tool that was implemented to help identify areas of strengths and weaknesses. A program may be ranked poorly for a number of reasons. Programs and services ranking in the fifth quintile may signal under-resource and may need additional funding or need for a strategic reallocation of funds.


What are the flaws of the PPP task force report?
The PPP is by no means perfect. There are still a number of flaws in which it can improve on, just like all the different UoG programs that it attempted to assess. An inherent flaw with the assessment is the lack of defined separation between academic and non-academic University services. It causes a bit of confusion when athletics-intramurals ranked in Q1 and physics-major ranked in Q5. Additionally, there were also issues and concerns around the way in which the reports were filled out. Some PIR forms were not necessarily completed as comprehensively as others that influenced the ability of the committee to evaluate the programs.

To see the PIR reports, visit: https://www.uoguelph.ca/vpacademic/ppp/pir-list 

Additionally, the language in the report could have perhaps been positioned more strategically so as to not create so much insecurity about some of the programs that were discussed in the report. However, the nature of the report is indeed sensitive and it is undoubtedly going to lead to some discomfort. It is encouraged then, that if ther is an outcome in the report that you do not agree with, to attend the open community forum (details provided below).


How you can get more informed about the PPP and how you can help.
Students should be equally as concerned about the PPP as UoG staff and faculty members. To get informed about this issue, it is imperative to read the full report which is really only 30 pages and not just focus on the rankings charts in the appendix.

More importantly, voice your questions and concerns about the assessment at the University of Guelph’s open community forum this week on Thursday, October 10th at noon. The forum will take place in Peter Clark Hall in the University Centre and all faculty, staff, and students are invited to attend/participate in this two-hour meeting.

For the detailed report, login via your UoG central login: https://www.uoguelph.ca/vpacademic/ppp/

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