I. Introduction: Our Challenge

During the nearly 125 years since its founding in 1878, The University of Western Ontario has emerged as one of Canada's most distinguished institutions of higher learning. Our University has gained an enviable national reputation for scholarship and undergraduate and graduate education across a wide spectrum of disciplines and professions. In many areas of inquiry, we have earned international recognition. Our outstanding academic programs enable us to attract many of the best students from Ontario, across Canada, and internationally. Western is a research-intensive university with a strong record of scholarship apparent in peer-reviewed publications, external awards to faculty members and students, substantial successes in recent external funding competitions, and engagement in international conferences. We are a publicly-funded institution and proud of that fact; we define our role in the context of our local, regional, provincial and national communities.

The strategic plan that follows describes our vision for the steps that Western must take to enhance its stature as one of Canada's leading research-intensive universities. This is a formidable challenge during a period of very rapid change. We face simultaneously a surge in undergraduate enrolment; a high rate of faculty retirements; extreme competition for highly qualified faculty, staff and students; significant opportunities for new research infrastructure in many sectors of the University; a technological revolution in the way that much of our knowledge is recorded and transmitted; and sobering current realities concerning public funding levels for the operation of our University.

Necessarily, our vision and our strategic directions must involve making choices. In each portion of our University, and throughout the research activities and undergraduate, graduate and professional education that characterize these areas, we must achieve a thoughtful, balanced and realistic recognition of that which is strong and that which has demonstrable potential – and we must invest accordingly. We must encourage in tangible ways not only individual research of a disciplinary nature, but also transdisciplinary study and collaboration at all levels of University life, for there is wide agreement in the scholarly community that many of the most innovative intellectual developments are taking place between and among disciplines. Most of all, we must recognize that faculty, staff, students, alumni, undergraduate teaching, graduate education, research, funding and fund-raising, the local community and the private sector are all parts of an indivisible continuum, each of which must support and reinforce the other to the maximum extent possible.

We must ensure that our University community possesses the critical mix and mass of faculty, staff and students to achieve our priorities. Above all other resources, Western's people are the key to its success and must be the central focus of any strategic plan. We envisage Western as a national leader in attracting and retaining highly creative and motivated students, enthusiastic and capable staff, nationally and internationally acclaimed teachers and researchers, and alumni who are fully engaged in the development and advancement of their alma mater.

Since 1878, Western has been dedicated to the two objectives of its motto, Veritas et Utilitas: the search for truth and the application of knowledge. Today, these objectives pose new challenges and offer new opportunities for the University. Our academic community must enhance its reputation as an environment in which inquiry and intellectual curiosity thrive and are honored. We must celebrate our deep roots in London and Southwestern Ontario and our role in the national and international community of scholarship. Western is unique in Canada in the beauty of its campus setting and the residential character of its academic environment. We must build upon our strengths and identify strategies that will promote the fulfillment of our aspirations – as faculty, staff and students, and as a distinguished institution of higher learning.