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McMaster University

McMaster University's Governing Bodies

The McMaster University Act, 1976 is an Act of the Ontario Legislature. It incorporates McMaster University and establishes a Board of Governors and a Senate, each with its own jurisdiction and powers. This bicameral system of university government is in place at most Canadian universities.

The Board of Governors

McMaster University Coat of Arms

The legal responsibilities of the Board of Governors are set out in Section 9 of The McMaster University Act, 1976. While the President and senior administrative officers exert the central influence in policy as well as providing the dominant force in management under the authority of the Board, Board members play an important role in the governance of the University, since the Board is the legal owner and the final authority for the institution whose assets and operations the Board holds in trust. Except for such matters as are assigned by the 1976 Act to the Senate, the government, conduct, management and control of the University and of its property, revenues, business and affairs are vested in the Board. In carrying out its financial responsibilities, the Board must accept full accountability for the finances of the University, including monitoring and authorizing the annual operating budget, prudent investments, and comprehensive fund-raising activities, as well as the obligation to ensure that financial assets are appropriately managed. The Board receives nominations from the Senate with respect to the hiring, promoting and suspending of senior administrative and teaching personnel, and delegates the appointment, promotion, suspension or removal of all other officers, agents and employees of the University to officers of the University. The Board conducts its affairs by making by-laws, resolutions and regulations to supplement the Act. The composition of the Board of Governors is described in Section 8 of the University Act.

Standing Committees of the Board of Governors

The Board has established a number of standing committees where matters are first discussed; final resolutions are then taken to the Board for ratification or further discussion. The terms of reference and composition of these committees are found in the By-laws of the Board.


The Senate

The University Senate has ultimate responsibility for determining academic policy and regulating the system of education, which includes new academic programmes, changes in curriculum, standards for admission to the University, examination policy, academic regulations, the conferring of degrees, the criteria and procedures for granting tenure and promotion to faculty members and so on. The Senate recommends to the Board the establishment or termination of Faculties, Schools, Institutes and Departments. The powers of the Senate are described in Section 13 of the University Act. The composition of Senate is described in Section 12 of the Act.

Standing Committees of the Senate

The Senate has a number of standing committees where many of the matters that come to Senate for approval are discussed in detail first. The terms of reference and the composition of these committees are described in the Senate By-laws.

Councils of Senate

Two other bodies of Senate are the Graduate Council and the Undergraduate Council. Although they are subordinate bodies of Senate they differ from the standing committees in that Senate has delegated to each of the Councils some major decision-making powers.

The Undergraduate Council is responsible for regulating matters concerning undergraduate work. It has the authority to approve curriculum changes recommended by Faculties, to approve minor changes in admission standards, to stipulate the conditions of award for all scholarships and prizes, to decide who will be awarded scholarships and prizes, and to make decisions on any other policies related to undergraduate work such as the academic regulations. The only matters that must be referred to the Senate for final decision are the establishment of new degree programmes, substantial revisions in a Faculty's admission standards and major changes in degree requirements.

The Graduate Council is similar to the Undergraduate Council except that it is responsible for the regulation of matters concerning graduate work. Again, Senate has delegated to Graduate Council considerable power to make decisions in the area of graduate curriculum and policy, admission standards, awards, scholarships and bursaries.


University Planning Committee

A major committee of the University is the University Planning Committee (formerly the Board-Senate Committee on Academic Planning). This is a joint committee of both the Board of Governors and the Senate. The reason for its being a joint committee relates to its function, which is to make long-range planning recommendations to both the Senate and the Board of Governors. With a joint Board-Senate committee, academic and resource matters can be considered together and appropriate recommendations made to either the Senate or the Board of Governors, or to both.