Policy 7.1 - Policy and Procedures on Research Centres and Institutes, and Scholarly Chairs

The official version of this policy is housed with the University Secretariat.  In the event of a discrepancy, the official version will prevail. Click here for a printable version of this policy. 


Approving Authority: Senate
Responsible Officer: Provost & Vice-President (Academic) and Vice-President (Research)
Original Approval Date: February 26, 2002
Most Recent Revision Date: June 3, 2019
Previous Revisions: May 30, 2011

1. Subject

This replaces the May 30, 2011 Senate policy on “Centres, Institutes and Scholarly Chairs at the University of Guelph”.                                                                                                                                

2. Scope and Authority

The University of Guelph Act, Section 13, provides that the Senate is “…responsible for the educational policy of the University, and, with the approval of the Board [of Governors] in so far as the expenditure of funds and the establishment of facilities are concerned, may create such faculties, departments, schools or institutes or establish such chairs as it may determine…”

3. Periodic Review Process 

In order to ensure that this Policy continues to be effective, it shall be reviewed periodically. The Provost and Vice-President (Academic), and the Vice-President (Research) are responsible for initiating this review no less than every five years.

4. Part 1: Research Centres and Institutes (RCIs)

4.1. Research Centres and Institutes (RCIs) provide the University with structures to coordinate and advance the scholarly activities of a number of faculty members across several departments or colleges. RCIs are often vehicles for interdisciplinary research and scholarly activity and may involve significant funding and/or collaboration with other universities. RCIs will be established and developed in a manner that is consistent with the University’s strategic directions and with the University’s Strategic Research Plan. The mission of RCIs will be directed towards research activities.

4.2. Normally, those proposing to establish a Research Centre or Institute shall follow the approvals process outlined below. However, it is possible to request provisional approval for a Research Centre or Institute status when a large research project has received a substantial amount of funding and the scale of the project is such that it is necessary to expedite the establishment of a suitable management structure for administering the funds and monitoring the activities of the project. It is also understood that applications for very large research grants may propose the establishment of a centre or institute to manage the project.

4.3. The terms “Centre” and “Institute” are used interchangeably. Each Research Centre or Institute will be designated as Category 1, 2 or 3. Each category carries with it different rights and responsibilities as outlined below; however, all RCIs must adhere to a number of common requirements as listed in Section 4.4. 

4.4. All Research Centres and Institutes (RCIs)

  • Must have a lead college (defined as the Responsible College) that is responsible for its oversight.

  • Must have a Director, appointed by the Dean of the Responsible College for a renewable 5-year term.

  • The Director is accountable to the Dean of the Responsible College for the overall direction, strategy, budget and leadership of the Research Centre or Institute.

  • The Responsible College is fiscally responsible for the Research Centre or Institute and for resolving any account deficits and any over-expenditures.

  • RCIs are eligible to receive University resources in exceptional circumstances. For example, support might be provided to help cover some of the administrative costs that would otherwise have to be provided centrally.

4.5. Research Centres and Institutes, Category 1 (RCI1s)

  • RCI1s are inter-college entities. Normally, three or more colleges will actively participate in the research activities of the RCI1.

  • RCI1s must have a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) among participating colleges outlining the responsibilities and contributions of each college and indicating which College will act as the Responsible College.

  • RCI1s must have an advisory board with representation from each participating college and will be chaired by the Responsible Dean or designee. The Deans of the participating Colleges will approve the Terms of Reference (TOR) for the advisory board. The TOR should conform to the outline provided in Section 8.

  • RCI1s are eligible to have a unit number in Financial Research Services (FRS) for the purpose of setting up research and operating accounts. The unit number will sit under the umbrella of the Responsible College’s account structure.

  • The Director is responsible for preparing and submitting an annual report to the Advisory Board for approval as outlined in Section 6 and using the template provided in Section 9. The Board-approved report will be submitted to the Provost and Vice-President (Research) in accordance with the process outlined in Section 6. Notwithstanding this reporting requirement, the Director will notify the Responsible Dean immediately, who, in turn, will notify the Provost and Vice-President (Research) immediately, if activities of the RCI1 pose any risks (reputational, financial, safety or other) that require mitigation.

  • The Director is responsible for financial oversight of research and operating funds held by the RCI1.

  • The Director approves submission of research grant applications that may lead to research funds being held by the RCI1 and ensures the budget meets the requirements of the RCI1.

4.6. Research Centres and Institutes, Category 2 (RCI2s)

  • RCI2s are inter-departmental entities. Normally, more than one Department actively participates in the research activities of the RCI2.

  • The Director is responsible for preparing and submitting an annual report to the Dean for approval (as outlined in Section 6 and using the template in Section 9). Notwithstanding this reporting requirement, the Director will notify the Responsible Dean immediately if activities of the RCI2 pose any risks (reputational, financial, safety or other) that require mitigation.

  • The Dean, in turn, is responsible for submitting the approved annual report to the Provost and Vice-President (Research). Notwithstanding this reporting requirement, the Responsible Dean will notify the Provost and Vice-President (Research) immediately if activities of the RCI2 pose any risks to the College or University that require mitigation.

  • RCI2s will not normally be eligible to have a unit number assigned in FRS.

  • The Director is responsible for providing financial oversight of research and operating funds held by the RCI2.

4.7. Research Centres and Institutes, Category 3 (RCI3s)

  • An RCI3 is normally a group of researchers primarily within one department.

  • The Director is responsible for meeting with the Chair annually to provide a brief written report that will be forwarded to the Responsible Dean. If the RCI3 receives central resources, a full annual report must be submitted as outlined in Section 6 and using the template in Section 9.

  • Research and operating funds will not normally be held by RCI3s.

4.8. The President is delegated authority from Senate to make decisions concerning the establishment or decommissioning of Research Centres or Institutes in accordance with this policy. The President may delegate responsibility for decisions under this policy to the Provost and Vice-President (Academic), or to the Vice-President (Research).

5. Process for Establishing a Research Centre or Institute

5.1. Each proposal for a Research Centre or Institute must address the principles expressed in this Policy, must indicate the requested Category, must have the written support of the Responsible Dean, and must be presented in writing to the Provost and Vice President (Research) for review and recommendation before it is presented to the President. Colleges may have varying internal processes for vetting RCIs and bringing RCIs forward. This said, at the university level, RCI proposals or RCI revisions must be submitted by the Responsible Dean directly to both the Provost and the Vice President (Research) for their adjudication and approval.

5.2. Existing RCIs may propose to be designated in a different category. The proposal must follow the process for establishing a new centre or institute outlined herein.

5.3. The activities of a Research Centre or Institute must be financially self-sufficient and create no liabilities for the University.

5.4. Every proposal must include the following; however, the level of detail should be commensurate with the level of Category being proposed:

  • The proposed name of the RCI, which should be an accurate reflection of its focus and/or area of activity, and which shall comply with the Senate policy “Naming of University Academic Entities and Awards”.

  • The mission of the Centre or Institute including a description of the way in which the mission and activities of the RCI relate to the University’s strategic directions and priorities. This should include an explanation of why there is a need for the RCI; what gap it is filling; how it will enhance the research of the University; how it will benefit researchers, highly qualified personnel, and the University.

  • A financial plan that demonstrates that the RCI will be financially self-sufficient and will create no financial liabilities for the University.

  • The composition, membership and terms of reference for the advisory board if applicable and the inter-college MOA, if applicable.

  • The physical space (if required) identified and approved to house the Centre or Institute.

  • A list of the participating partners – internal or external to the University - in the establishment of the Centre or Institute, including a report on any and all contracts or memoranda of understanding or agreement established.

  • A risk management plan the includes the identification of risks and an outline of a risk mitigation plan.

  • The terms under which the Centre or Institute may be decommissioned. Where provision for decommissioning of a Centre or Institute is not already incorporated within the establishing documentation, the following process will apply:

  • A plan documenting the rationale for the decommissioning of a Centre or Institute, addressing the impact of the proposed action in terms of the University’s goals and priorities, any operational considerations, and the proposed plan to communicate the decommissioning, will be presented in writing to the Provost and Vice-President (Research) for review and recommendation before it is presented to the President.

5.5. All decisions to establish or decommission a Centre or Institute under this Policy shall be reported to Senate by the President as soon as is practical following the decision.

6. Process for Periodic Reviews

As outlined in Sections 4.6, 4.7 and 4.8, RCIs shall file annual reports in accordance with the following procedures.

6.1. Every year, on the anniversary date of its establishment or on the anniversary of a date set by the Provost and Vice-President (Research), RCI1s, RCI2s, and RCI3s receiving central support, shall file an annual report using the template provided in Section 9.

6.2. Every five years, all RCIs shall file a request (through the Responsible Dean to the Provost and Vice-President (Research)) for continuation or decommissioning (as appropriate) of the Research Centre or Institute. The request will be considered on the basis of the information provided in the previous annual reports.

7. Reports to Senate            

  • Senate will be provided with a complete inventory of all Research Centres and Institutes on an annual basis, via the Senate Research Board.

  • The inventory will include information about the next scheduled review for each Centre or Institute.

  • The inventory will be maintained publicly (e.g. on a University website) by the University Secretariat, along with general information about Centres and Institutes including mandates, reports, assigned personnel, etc.

8. Terms of Reference and Guidelines for Advisory Boards

The Terms of Reference should be prepared by the Director of the RCI in consultation with the Deans of the participating Colleges and should include the following information for the members of the Advisory Board:

8.1. Outline of the RCI’s Mission, Vision, Structure, History

8.2. Membership of the Advisory Board, which shall be chaired by the Responsible Dean or Designee.

  • Participating colleges must be represented on the Advisory Board

  • Membership may include external persons

  • Membership should reflect the equity, diversity, and inclusion objectives of the University

  • Members must adhere to all University policies

  • Members are appointed by the Responsible Dean

8.3. Term of Advisory Board Members (3 to 5 years, for example)

8.4. Role of the Advisory Board. Provide a statement indicating that, in general, the Advisory Board may be asked to provide advice to the Director and to the Responsible Dean on any aspect of the RCI’s activities. Decision-making authority on all aspects of the RCI is retained by the University. In addition, it would be useful to list some specific duties the Advisory Board may be asked to undertake. For example, the Advisory Board may be asked to provide advice on the following:

  • strategic plan and strategic direction of the RCI,

  • ‘branding’ of the RCI,

  • progress of the RCI towards fulfilling its objectives and plans,

  • potential strategic opportunities and partnerships, and/or philanthropic opportunities,

  • proposals for research grants,

  • recruitment of Advisory Board members,

  • annual report, and

  • financial plan

8.5. Conflict of Interest and Confidentiality.  After appointment and prior to commencing their term, Board Members may be asked to sign an Acknowledgement and Undertaking regarding Confidentiality and Conflict of Interest in a form approved by the University. Each Board Member may be asked to update their Acknowledgement and Undertaking annually.

8.6. Meeting Frequency. The Advisory Board should meet at least once per year and meeting materials should be provided to members in advance of the meeting.

9. Annual Report Template

The annual report captures the following information:

  • Current Date

  • Reporting period

  • Name of Report Author

  • Name of Centre or Institute; Category (1, 2 or 3)

  • Director’s name and departmental and college affiliation

  • Responsible College and Participating Colleges (if applicable)

  • Physical Location

  • List of Advisory Board Members (if applicable)

  • List of External Institutional Partners (if applicable)

  • List of Participating Personnel

  • List of staff members (if applicable)

  • Report on key performance indicators

  • Summary of Key Activities over the reporting period

  • Financial status of the RCI and projection (see template)

  • Responsible Dean’s approval on behalf of the Advisory Board (if applicable) and Comments/Recommendations for Provost and Vice-President (Research)

10. Part 2: Scholarly Chairs

10.1. Scholarly Chairs make an important contribution to the life of the University.

Scholarly Chairs fall into two categories:

  1. Visiting scholars who are appointed to Scholarly Chair, but who do not receive a salary from the University of Guelph (covered by policies outlined in “Policy and Procedures for Nil-Salaried Academics” http://www.vpacademic.uoguelph.ca/frprocedures/
  2. Scholarly Chairs who receive salaries from the University (addressed in this policy).

10.2. The following definitions for “Scholarly Chair” will apply:

  • This term refers to positions of a continuing or time-limited nature that allow the University to assign an individual with specialized expertise to focus on an element of a discipline or sub-discipline.

  • Scholarly Chairs engage in activities that include primarily research, teaching, program and curriculum development, community outreach, advocacy, and/or service.

  • They must be associated with a particular academic department at the University and are appointed through the existing policies and procedures for the appointment of faculty (as outlined in the Collective Agreement between the University and the University of Guelph Faculty Association) and the approval processes for research chairs (e.g., Canada Research Chairs, University Excellence Awards and University Research Leadership Chairs).

  • They may be affiliated with a Centre or Institute.

10.3. Scholarly Chairs will be established and developed in a manner that is consistent with the University’s strategic directions, its commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion, and the University’s Strategic Research Plan. Each Scholarly Chair will have a clear mandate that is documented and shared publicly. The mandate will indicate the range of activities and outcomes anticipated to be associated with the Scholarly Chair.

10.4. The process for review of a Scholarly Chair shall be as outlined in the provisions for the review of faculty in the Collective Agreement between the University of Guelph and the University of Guelph Faculty Association. The renewal of term for a Scholarly Chair shall be governed using the same review process as Canada Research Chairs (CRCs), University Excellence Awards and University Research Leadership Chairs, which shall be posted on the web site of the Office of Research.