Much Ado About Nothing? An Analysis of Prioritization at Six Canadian Universities

  • Donna Kotsopoulos
  • Joanne McKee
  • Vianne Timmons
  • Victoria Gisondi
  • Tina Goebel
  • Brandon Verkerk
  • Stephen King
  • Lisa Keeping
  • Mary Kelly
  • Ruth Cruikshank
Original Article


This research investigates organizational change in six Canadian universities framed as “prioritization,” which is a ranking method using predefined metrics for the comprehensive review and evaluation of academic and administrative programs. Our research found the following: (a) no prioritization process reached the implementation stage; (b) financial performance was not significantly impacted; (c) differences in pace, sequencing, and linearity had little to no impact on the outcomes; (d) the process of prioritization itself introduced political hardship to university leadership, including broad mistrust. Our analysis shows that prioritization initiatives have not provided a directly attributable impact on the outcomes at each of the universities. In short, there was much ado about nothing. Implications for universities will be discussed.


academic finance governance higher education planning prioritization strategic planning 



Funding was provided by Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (Grant No. 430-2015-00885).


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Copyright information

© International Association of Universities 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Arts and Social ScienceHuron University CollegeLondonCanada
  2. 2.Ryerson UniversityTorontoCanada
  3. 3.University of ReginaReginaCanada
  4. 4.Faculty of ScienceWilfrid Laurier UniversityWaterlooCanada
  5. 5.Faculty of EducationWilfrid Laurier UniversityWaterlooCanada
  6. 6.Lazaridis School of Business and EconomicsWilfrid Laurier UniversityWaterlooCanada

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