Increasing number of Canadian university presidents being ousted by boards

February 19, 2013

University of Victoria president David Turpin's research into the turnover of university presidents in Canada has helped fuel conversation about the role of the university president, raising what many in PSE say are important questions: What are the underlying causes of the early departures, and what is the remedy? The Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada is now helping Turpin expand the scope of his research. He stresses his findings are preliminary and that more research is needed to understand the trends and recommend solutions. Turpin notes the increasing pressures university leaders face today are probably a major factor in the turnover rate. "The job has changed dramatically," Turpin says. "There are far more stakeholders involved, and I think expectations have increased dramatically. The president not only has to be the lead academic but is also responsible for running a billion-dollar or multibillion-dollar operation and has huge external responsibilities to the government and the private sector." Turpin's research found that half of the 12 presidents who left in the previous 6 years were shown the door by their governing boards. One education expert says the findings point to a need for more training of those in board positions. Recently, Canadian universities have started to provide more training to new board appointees. Last fall, for the first time, the Council of Chairs of Ontario Universities held a 2-day seminar on governance issues, focused in part on helping board members become more familiar with academe. The spate of presidential departures has prompted more boards to consider how they interact with presidents, says the secretary of the Canadian University Boards Association. "The emerging understanding for boards is that this relationship is one that you have to work on." The Chronicle of Higher Education (subscription required)