Developing a sustainability plan for NSCAD University
January 31, 2012

January has been a busy month as the NSCAD community and senior leadership work together on a plan that addresses all the recommendations in the Windsor report and ensures the short-term and long-term stability of the university.
Faculty, staff, students and alumni have participated in a series of consultation meetings that will conclude on February 1. These consultations have focused on three critical areas: curriculum, facilities and deficit reduction. This has been a challenging process given a tight timeframe but discussion has been vigorous and productive. The reports generated from the consultation meetings have been provided to Academic Council and relevant standing committees.
The following Q&A has been prepared to respond to the most commonly asked questions we have been receiving from the community. Questions and answers will be updated as the process of moving the sustainability plan to the point of submission continues. Questions may be addressed to

What agreements have been made to date with Government of Nova Scotia?

NSCAD’s Board of Governors met on December 8, 2011 to discuss with representatives of the provincial government a draft brief then under preparation by Mr. Howard Windsor concerning research he conducted at NSCAD during the fall. This was a standard opportunity for both the researcher and the university’s board to resolve any issues prior to public report release.  The Windsor study was subsequently released and NSCAD’s Board of Governors agreed to accept all the recommendations contained within. As reported publically by NSCAD’s University Relations Office, there is no written agreement to this end.

(Please see: The story contains the link to the Howard Windsor Report, A Time to Act:

What is the purpose of the consultation meetings and who is leading these groups?

NSCAD is committed to responding to every recommendation in the Windsor report. The consultation groups are designed to ensure that the NSCAD community represented by a broad base of faculty, staff, alumni and students has input into the sustainability plan that is being prepared by the leadership of the university for submission before March 31, 2012.

The consultation groups are intended to be representative of the NSCAD community and we welcome students to participate in the consultations as valuable contributors to the creative solutions under consideration at this time. Leadership for each of the groups is assigned to senior leaders at the university: the deficit reduction consultation is led by Sharon Johnson-Legere, Vice President of Finance; curriculum review consultation is led by Christine Holzer-Hunt, Dean of Academic Affairs; and the facilities consultation is led by Alex Doyle, Director of Facilities.

Recommendations from each of the three consultation groups will be circulated to Academic Council and the relevant standing committees. In early February, the president will receive reports back from Academic Council and the committees to help inform content for the sustainability report. Inasmuch as the Board of Governors has paramount responsibility in the university’s governance structure for finance, its recommendations will also have an important bearing on the report.

Consultants have not been hired for the process, although a trained facilitator is expected to be retained for the final consultation meeting on February 1 to ensure cohesive integration of the three working groups. The cost of the facilitator will be borne by donor funds contributed for the purpose of ensuring the independence and vitality of NSCAD.

What is the role of the government appointed facilitator Dr. Dan O’Brien?

Dr. O’Brien has already met with several faculty and staff and last week visited consultation meetings involving more than 40 faculty, staff, alumni, and students. NSCAD senior leadership is proactively working on a sustainability plan that is both comprehensive and actionable, in partnership with Dr. O’Brien. He has indicated that he is open to meeting with as many interested faculty, staff, and students as his time allows. He can be contacted at

What is the status of exploring collaborations with other universities as described in the Windsor report?

Discussions with other universities on collaboration has been ongoing even before the Windsor report was issued. NSCAD has actively fostered collaborations with other universities for many years focused on sharing costs where possible e.g. Interuniversity Services Incorporated; to facilitate research e.g. collaboration with Saint Mary’s ILO office; to facilitate student and faculty access to library resources across the province e.g. Novanet; and to provide student services unavailable at NSCAD e.g. residences at Saint Mary’s and counseling at Dalhousie.

The Board of Governors has directed that all collaboration opportunities be considered that maintain the important characteristics of NSCAD. Along with the facilitator Dr. Dan O’Brien, the President is actively engaged in discussions with other university presidents. Collaborations remain an important priority for the university because they enable  economic efficiencies that allow tuition and external partner support to be directed to our teaching and research budgets. 

What has been the effect on student enrolment at the university?

The enrolment for winter term is 943 students, just one per cent below enrolment numbers for the same term last year. Decreases in student enrolment are always a concern and additional resources have been invested in the recruitment function in the past year and in the year to come. As senior leaders of the university, we are fully committed to proactively working towards a plan that ensures the financial sustainability of NSCAD and will continue to attract and retain the finest art students in the world.

Will NSCAD properties need to be sold to close the financial gap?

The real estate portfolio owned and managed by the university has different terms for each asset. The Port Campus lease currently has an additional 35 years remaining. The Academy Building must remain a NSCAD holding for at least five years to comply with rules accepted as a condition of accepting Knowledge and Infrastructure grant funding, while  the Granville Campus must remain a NSCAD holding for another five years to comply with capital grant acceptance regulations. Apart from conditions incumbent on the acceptance of public renovation grants, any sale of property must be carefully considered against the realities of the real estate market. The facilities consultation group is exploring options for the sale of property as part of a multifactorial solution to reach financial sustainability for NSCAD in both the immediate and long-term future. 

How is the Board of Governors involved in this process?
NSCAD's Board of Governors is providing critical volunteer leadership and counsel in support of the university’s senior administration to advance the case for NSCAD’s short and long term sustainability. A sub-committee of the full board is meeting regularly over the period January-March to ensure a timely sustainability report submission. Individual members of the subcommittee and other governors are in daily contact with the university to provide their experienced advice. Board leadership and proactivity are crucial components of community-wide engagement in the development of a plan to secure NSCAD’s future for the benefit of Nova Scotia and generations of creative artists and designers.

While there are significant fiscal challenges to be overcome, there is no ambiguity around the position of the university’s Board of Governors: NSCAD is an essential educational and creative asset for Nova Scotia.