Terms of Reference

Review Process

The student experience review will require the formation of two teams to oversee the process. These teams are an Internal Steering Group that will support and advise the Review Team who will be responsible for delivering the final report and recommendations. These two teams will be distinct but work in concert. The Internal Steering Group will provide the contextual foundation and materials required to support the Review Team’s efforts.

Internal Steering Group

Establish an Internal Steering Group to meet as needed in advance of the formation of the Review Team, until the completion of the project. This team will:

  • Finalize the terms of reference
  • Confirm the Review Team members
  • Prepare supporting materials in advance of the site visit of the Review Team
  • Outline and organize the consultations for the Review Team
  • Support the Review Team during the review process, as needed
  • Receive the Review Team’s final report and ensure it meets the report criteria and deliverables
  • Ensure the wider circulation of the final report to appropriate individuals

Members of the Internal Steering Group:

  • Provost (co-lead)
  • Associate Provost, Students (co-lead)
  • Associate Vice President, Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs
  • Associate Provost, Co-operative and Experiential Education
  • Associate Vice President, Academic
  • Registrar
  • VP Student Life, Federation of Students (FEDS)
  • President, Graduate Student Association (GSA)
  • Admin support

Review Team

The Review Team will be well-supported by the Internal Steering Group and have a clear mandate with objectives and deliverables. Two of the reviewers will focus on the undergrad experience, and two will have the graduate experience as their priority.

The Review Team’s role will include:

  • Receive and analyze the supporting materials package
  • Meet as a group in advance of the site visit to establish the review methodology/approach, as well as to set any follow-up meetings as required
  • Hold consultations/key informant interviews with:
    • Internal Steering Group
    • Key stakeholders including: Senior Administration; Deans/Associate Deans; Faculty; Staff; Students; and Alumni.
  • Work collaboratively (remotely, if necessary) to come to appropriate recommendations and create the final report

Members of the Review Team (ideally four in total) shall possess:

  • A complementary set of experiences and backgrounds, including student affairs, academic and experiential learning in order to ensure a diverse perspective is brought to bear. Ideally, they all would come from the university sector.


The review needs to approach the student experience broadly and appreciate that any student’s perspective of their experience is informed by all aspects of university life. Specifically, we would like an broad analysis of the Waterloo student experience in the following core areas, or ’bins’:

  • Quality practices in teaching and learning (including in-class experiences, experiential programs and opportunities and research opportunities)
  • Student support (including non-academic interactions with the university and academic support activities)
  • Student wellness (including student physical and mental health, sense of community)

Using the above as a framework, The Review Team is requested to comment on the following key questions:

Undergraduate student satisfaction drops from 1st year to 4th year more sharply than comparator schools, as reported in NSSE/CUSC. Why?

Graduate students’ sense of community, including their relationships with their supervisors, is not seen to be broadly achieving the goal of positive student experiences. Why?

For this review, were are using the following as a definition for the ‘student experience’:

A positive student experience is one in which students perceive that the university has created an environment - including academically, professionally and socially - that allows the students to achieve their goals in the same categories.  Further, university representatives should be perceived as responsive, courteous and supportive of students in their interactions in such a way that demonstrates transparency, equity, empathy and compassion.

Review Team deliverables

Waterloo intends to receive a report from the Review Team.  Given the three core areas (“bins”) identified above, the following deliverables should be addressed in the reviewers’ report:

  • Identifying, describing and assessing the student experience at Waterloo, with a focus on gaps and recommendations for how to improve. These will be informed by analyses of the current work being done on Waterloo’s campuses regarding the student experience at large and a consideration of the related services, processes and practices.
  • Description of a potential framework / dashboard with recommended key performance indicators that will identify, articulate and benchmark vital aspects of the Waterloo student experience.

The University of Waterloo, having received the report, intends to establish a second phase of this project the goals of which will be to review and analyze the reviewers’ observations and recommendations and to organize next steps broadly across the University to ensure effective follow-ups are taken.

Additional instruments/components of pre-material for Review Team

  • Student data surveys – undergraduate and graduate (CGPSS, GPOS, NSSE, CUSC, NCHA, ISS, etc.)
  • Other survey data (Maclean’s rankings, etc.)
  • University of Waterloo-driven data and documents (regarding student mental health, retention, graduate supervision, strategic plans, issue papers, etc.)



Key Targets

Nov. 2018

Intent of review communicated

Nov. 2018

Review commissioned

Jan. 2018

Pre-material package available for the Review Team

Jan. - Apr. 2019

Review commences

Apr. 2019

Final report delivered to the Internal Steering Group

May 2019

Discussion of final report at Executive Council Retreat