Policy Development and Revision

Policies play an important role in university governance.  To be effective, SFU’s policies and procedures must be current, practical, and useful, readily accessible, and comply with applicable law.

Policy B10.00, Policy on Policies and Procedures, formally establishes a policy management framework and the process for developing and conducting regular reviews of university policies that are within the jurisdiction of the Board of Governors.

The policy management framework requires policy developers and approvers to consider why a new policy or amendment is needed and the benefits, risks, and the other implications associated with it.

This includes how the policy advances the University’s core principles (including commitments to reconciliation and to equity, diversity, and inclusion) and any inconsistencies with those principles.

Policy FAQs

What is a university policy?

A university policy is a governance document that states a goal or purpose.  A policy explains why the university is doing something and what it wants to achieve.  It usually contains principles to guide decision-making and guidelines for achieving its intended outcomes.  A policy designates and authorizes individuals or units to implement the policy.

Policies are different than procedures.  Procedures provide specific direction about how to implement the policy. Procedures normally assign responsibilities and include processes for day-to-day operational decision-making to achieve the institutional goals and objectives as set out in the policy. 

Who is responsible for approving policies?

SFU has what is known is a bicameral governance system. Most universities in Canada operate under this system.  A bicameral governance system has two governing bodies, the Board of Governors (BoG) and the Senate.

British Columbia’s University Act establishes the powers and responsibilities of the BoG and the Senate.   The Act states that the BoG is responsible for the management, administration and control of the property, revenue, business, and affairs of the university.  The BoG has the power to create and approve university policies related to all of the matters within its sphere of responsibility, although there are some matters on which the BoG must first consult with Senate or obtain the approval of Senate.

The academic governance of the university is vested in the Senate. The Senate reviews and approves policies related to academic matters of the university.

Who is responsible for developing university policies?

Policy development resides with a Vice-President or other “policy owner” (e.g. the BoG has its own policies that reside with the University Secretary). The Executive reviews each policy and, after community consultation, the President recommends it to the BoG. 

Why are policies developed?

A policy is developed when:

a) It is required by law;

b) A governance body determines it is necessary to support university governance; or

 c) The President or a Vice-President determines it is necessary to support the management and administration of the university.

When does a policy take effect?

The policy does not take effect until it is approved by the BoG.  If the policy is related to an academic matter, the Senate must approve it before the BoG.

Approved policies are all publicly available on SFU’s Policy Gazette. 

How are policies developed?

The first step is for the policy owner to determine the goals and objectives stated in the policy.  The next is to identify options for how to achieve those goals by reviewing best practices, conducting research and speaking to stakeholders (people impacted by the policy).

The person designated by the policy owner to prepare the policy will, as the policy is being drafted, review it against other university policies to ensure it is consistent. For all new policies being developed, a legal review of the policy is undertaken to ensure it conforms to relevant governance and legal frameworks.

Some of the key governance and legal frameworks that must be considered include:

  • University Act: the key piece of legislation that defines the purpose and powers of BC’s universities and the division of powers and responsibilities between the Senate and the BoG.
  • Collective Agreements and Employment Policies: SFU has five different employee groups:  APSA, CUPE, PolyParty, TSSU and the Faculty Association. Each employee group has its own collective agreement or employment policies that define the terms and conditions of employment for people who belong to that group. These agreements are written contracts, and the rights and conditions are protected by law.
  • Other relevant legal frameworks: this includes all relevant provincial and federal legislation such as (but not limited to) the Human Rights Code, Workers Compensation Act, Employment Standards Act, Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act ,and the Copyright Act as well as regulatory regimes such as the Tri-Agency Framework for the Responsible Conduct of Research.

Once a policy is drafted, it goes to the Executive and the President for review.  It then proceeds to community consultation prior to proceeding to the BoG for approval.

What does community consultation involve?

The nature of the community consultation varies, depending on the subject matter and scope of the policy.  The best practice for community consultation is to give the highest level of consideration to the people most impacted. Sometimes the policy is about something specific and impacts a smaller group of people.  For example, a policy about research funding might be of more relevance and interest to faculty members and research associates than to the university community as a whole.  In these cases, the group most impacted will usually be closely consulted.  This can be engagement with either formal stakeholder groups (like our employee or student groups) or informal groups. When a policy has wider implications, a more robust community-wide consultation will normally take place.

After community consultation is complete, the policy owner reviews the input and may make revisions to the policy based on that input.  The final policy returns to the Executive and President for review and recommendation before it goes forward for consideration by the BoG.