UBC to invest $22 million into six President’s Excellence Chairs

With a $22 million budget, UBC is now looking to hire and maintain six President’s Excellence Chairs for seven years. The program will be supported by the Excellence Fund, which draws from the increase in international student tuition that was approved in 2015.

In particular, these chairs will be recruited for biodiversity studies, brain health, forest bio-products, global development policy, media studies and precision oncology — areas of research that “UBC already has tremendous strength” in.

According to Provost and VP Academic Andrew Szeri, these targeted areas were also chosen through a “long collaborative process” between the Provost office, the office of the VP Research and the deans.

In line with the Excellence Fund’s mission to promote academic excellence at UBC, the chairs will further be leveraged as a strategy to “attract great faculty” who in turn would “attract top students” by “enabling cutting-edge research and an excellent student learning experience.”

“They'll be working to attract outside resources to the university and in the course of time they will found new research centres which will contribute significantly on the research profile of the institution” said David Shorthouse, executive director of academic initiatives. More notably, he added that the chairs will be engaged in undergraduate teaching and supervision of undergraduate research.

On top of these common expectations, each chair will also have different objectives tailored to their respective department, given the diversity of the targeted research areas.

Currently, UBC is still at the beginning stage of the recruiting process.

According to Szeri, the candidates will not be finalized until summer 2018, and the search committee is still in the process of being formed.

Overall, both Szeri and Shorthouse believe that this program will “work well in synergy” with other Excellence Fund’s initiatives and federal programs like the Canada 150 Research Chairs program to advance the academic quality at UBC.

“The general strategy is that great students are attracted to come to a wonderful university for the chance to work with the greatest faculty members, and also great faculty members are attracted to work at a great university for the chance to work with the best students and so there's a synergy there,” said Shorthouse.

“The chairs, the graduate fellowships — another Excellence Fund’s initiative — and other mechanisms will help to support that synergy, which improves the standing of the university and helps to make better opportunities available to the whole campus community.”