July 5, 2017

The tough job of University rector in Quebec

Jean-François Venne | University Affairs

There’s been a substantial turnover of university leaders recently in Quebec, and finding replacements has sometimes proven difficult.

No fewer than nine university institutions in Quebec have seen their executive head depart since 2015. Several of the rectors – the term used for university presidents in Quebec – left their posts after a single mandate or partway through one. Is it that tough being a rector?

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Unlike in the rest of Canada, the process to select and appoint a rector is entirely open in Quebec, which could explain the complexity of renewing mandates. This is the opinion of Yvan Allaire, executive chair of the Institute for Governance of Private and Public Organizations, an initiative of HEC Montréal and Concordia University’s John Molson School of Business. The possibility of a candidate for rector being defeated in a very public vote has discouraged a good many people from outside the institution from applying, he said.

Dr. Allaire added that this way of doing things has the effect of entrenching the status quo. “It’s hard for a candidate to propose massive changes because the very profs, students and administrators who elected him or her end up defending their own interests,” he explained.

In 2017, the institute decided that faculty unions and students should be consulted beforehand and help define the ideal candidate profile, but that the new rector should be confidentially appointed by a board of directors consisting chiefly of independent directors. “The faculty union refused point blank,” said Dr. Allaire. “They feared a loss of control and the infiltration of private business into the board of directors.”

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