Collegial governance at Waterloo

Universities aren’t run like businesses. The University is collegially governed, which means that many decisions are made by faculty. In fact, faculty represented by FAUW have a stronger voice in governance than any other stakeholder group on campus.

Faculty members’ participation in collegial governance is essential. Since the University’s core mission is scholarly, it is scholars themselves who chart the institution’s course. Participation in collegial governance is often called “service,” but service is a misnomer. The work is a central part of the job of a faculty member, and we’re paid to do it.

Collegial governance is stronger in Canada than anywhere else in the world and we safeguard this system by participating in it.

What you need to know

Governance structures at UWaterloo

  • The University has a bicameral system of governance: the Senate oversees academic matters, and the Board of Governors manages the University’s finances and operations.

  • Things are more bottom-up than they look. For example, FAUW (whose Board of Directors is elected by and from faculty members) has veto power over some policies through the Faculty Relations Committee.

  • You can learn a lot about governance at Waterloo from its organizational charts, but the org charts only tell you so much. Our deans have more power than is typical in the sector, but that isn’t obvious in the charts. Similarly, the charts don't make clear that the Vice-President Academic & Provost is the most senior, and the most powerful, of all the vice-presidents.

  • FAUW negotiates terms and conditions of employment differently than unionized faculty associations. Instead of doing this every three years at the bargaining table, we meet with senior administrators about twice a month at Faculty Relations Committee, and have ongoing deliberations about matters relevant to faculty.

Faculty participation in collegial governance

  • Faculty have many opportunities to participate in collegial governance, from guiding curriculum at the department level, to approving academic policies, to serving in senior administrative positions.

  • Getting involved with the FAUW Board of Directors or one of our committees counts as service to the University on your performance review. FAUW also appoints representatives to a range of University committees.
  • Any regular faculty member can run for Senate (see Senate Bylaw 3). Elections happen every Winter. Seven of the faculty members on Senate are then appointed to the Board of Governors (see Board of Governors Bylaw 1). The FAUW president has an ex-officio seat on Senate.

  • Portions of University Senate and Board of Governors meetings are open to the entire UW community; agendas and minutes are also posted online.

Where to find information

Information about Governance at Waterloo

Other key resources on collegial governance and service


Who to talk to

  • FAUW Board members or faculty senators and governors, about how to get involved and what your rights are in relation to collegial governance. You can also send them your input on issues in advance of meetings.
  • Your chair, for advice on participating at the department level or serving as a department representative on Faculty-level committees.
  • Your dean, about representing your Faculty at University levels of governance.
  • The Academic Leadership Program, if you’re starting a service role at the level of associate chair or above.
  • The University Secretary, for questions about how governance works at Waterloo.

FAUW's advice

  • You have a duty to participate. For collegial governance to work, we all need to do our part, whether that’s taking your turn on a committee or representative body, voting, or talking to your representatives.
  • You have the right to curate your service in a way that makes good use of your expertise and time. Service can even support your scholarship if you choose wisely.
  • You don’t need to understand how everything works before getting involved. There are lots of ways to get training and support along the way.

  • The Council of Representatives is a nice first foray into both collegial governance and getting involved with FAUW.

  • Tenured and continuing faculty have a particular responsibility to follow your conscience in collegial matters—that’s one reason we have tenure!

  • Women and members of underrepresented groups can end up with heavier service loads or less choice in their service because of equity requirements of committees. They also tend to do more invisible and unacknowledged service work. Protect yourself by being selective about your service work and saying no when you need to. Consider—even if you are midcareer— having a service mentor who can help you navigate these issues. (Contact FAUW if you need help finding one.)

    Further reading


    Develop your sense of collegial governance: When a new policy or procedure is released, ask what body approved it and what the consultation process was. What role did faculty play?