System-Wide Academic Policy Development

In 2006, the Okanagan Policies and Procedures Committee and the Vancouver Agenda Committee considered how to best address the need for system-wide academic policy development in light of the distinct jurisdictions of the Okanagan and Vancouver Senates. The Committees recognized that some policies may be common to both campuses, while others may not. When a matter is determined to be system-wide, the process outlined below allows for the joint development and/or modification of academic policy by the two Senates, without reference to the Council of Senates. Referral to the Council of Senates remains an option should the two Senates fail to reach agreement. Upon the recommendation of the Okanagan Policies and Procedures Committee and the Vancouver Agenda Committee, the following joint report was approved in March 2006 by each of the Okanagan and Vancouver Senates.


UBC’s transition from a single-campus, single-Senate university to a dual-campus university with two Senates and a Council of Senates has raised many questions regarding the development and modification of academic policies at the two campuses, and the extent to which these may be common to both campuses or may differ from one campus to the next.

In this document, “policy” refers to various academic matters that fall under the jurisdiction of the Senates such as:

  • Admissions criteria and related practices
  • Curricula, programs and degrees
  • Grading systems and related practices
  • Course crediting and contact hour regulations
  • Graduation requirements and approval of degree recipients
  • The naming and powers of academic units, including faculties, schools, departments, colleges, centres, and institutes
  • Student awards criteria, and approval of individual awards
  • Criteria relating to honorary degree recipients and emeritus faculty, and approval of individual recipients
  • Academic Year, including term dates, withdrawal dates, and examination dates.

It is noted that Faculty-specific policies are excluded from current consideration, although the designation of those policies that may or may not be Faculty-specific is also a matter for Senate consideration.

As each Senate develops and amends policies, it is appropriate that the two Senates reach a common understanding of the corresponding principles and procedures. This report is intended to provide a framework for such considerations.


  • Although common policies are preferred to the extent possible for reasons of uniformity, cohesiveness and administrative efficiency, each Senate may wish to develop or amend policies reflecting the needs and environment of its own campus.
  • Consistent with the recommendations of the two campus-based ad hoc Committees to Consider the Establishment of the Council of Senates, it is preferred that referrals to the Council of Senates be minimized, and that any differences of opinion with respect to policies at both campuses are resolved at the level of the committees of the two Senates, or by the two Senates themselves.
  • Each Senate recognizes the jurisdiction of the other Senate with respect to the approval of academic policies at that campus, but nevertheless may raise matters with the other Senate, either through committee consultation or through a referral to Council, if it views that there may be implications of a particular policy approval on the UBC system.
  • Since different policies at each campus may have administrative and/or budgetary implications, the Registrar should be consulted on those policies that may not be approved jointly by both Senates.

Procedures Regarding New or Amended Policies

Reflecting the above principles, the following are procedures relating to the development or amendment of academic policies. It is expected that these procedures will evolve with time and experience, but these appear to be a reasonable starting point.

  • A policy is normally initially developed or amended in draft form by a Senate committee. That committee will determine whether or not the policy in question may possibly be system-wide.
  • Where a new or amended policy may be system-wide, a draft policy statement is normally sent to the corresponding committee of the other Senate for consultation and for that committee’s consideration with respect to its own Senate. As well, the Registrar would be consulted because of possible administrative and/or budgetary implications. Various procedures may be used to facilitate this consultation and collaboration. This process may result in the following:(a) a joint report from the two committees may be developed;
    (b) each committee may develop a separate report;
    (c) one committee may elect not to pursue the matter.

    Case (a). In the case of a joint report, this is sent to both Senates for approval, without amendment. Each Senate may: (i) approve the report, without amendment and subject to the approval of the other Senate; (ii) refer the report back, with reasons, for further consideration; or (iii) may reject the report with respect to implementation on its own campus.
    Case (b). In the case of two separate reports, each Senate may consider the relevant report in the usual way: (i) approve the report, with or without amendments; (ii) refer the report back for further consideration, with reasons; or (iii) reject the report.
    Case (c). In the case of one report proceeding to a single Senate, that Senate may consider the report in the usual way.

It is noted that policies in effect prior to December 2005 apply to UBC O, unless otherwise specified by the IAGB or the Okanagan Senate. A Senate committee may bring forward an amendment to such policies at any time, and if the policy may possibly be system-wide, then it would consult with its counterpart committee to consider the matter.

Notwithstanding the various outcomes indicated above, each Senate may elect to refer a matter to the Council of Senates associated with the approval of a policy by the other Senate. To assist in the matter of referral to the Council of Senates matters that have been considered by the other Senate, the following additional aspects are proposed:

  • Each Senate should have timely access to the other Senate’s minutes. This will normally be facilitated by the agenda of all Senate meetings making reference to the other Senate’s website that contains minutes and materials.
  • It is intended that the Rules and Procedures of each Senate be modified to anticipate referrals to the Council of Senate by a Senate. These should reflect Principle 2 above, whereby referrals to the Council of Senates are minimized, and should not be undertaken in a spontaneous or trivial manner. Reflecting this, it is intended that any matter intended for referral not coming from a committee of Senate should first be directed to the Agenda / Policies and Procedures Committee for consultation with its counterpart, consideration and reporting back to its Senate at the next meeting of Senate. The Chair of Senate may invite a representative of the other Senate to be present and speak to the matter. Subsequently, there would be a motion to refer to the Council, and the corresponding vote to refer will require a 2/3 majority of those present and eligible to vote.

Finally, to assist in maintaining clear records of policy development, the Secretariat to the Senates should maintain a list of all policies, including an indication of those that are common and those that differ at the two campuses.

Approval date: March 21, 2006

This information is for quick reference. For the full text of the Minutes of Senate, which include the motions and discussion, please see the Minutes Archive.