History Trails
  The Founding
  Faculties, Departments & Schools
  People A-G
  People H-O
  People P-Z
  Buildings & Campus Development
  Affiliated Institutions
  Clubs & Groups
  Speeches and Addresses
Faculty Profile: Business Administration and Commerce

The Historical Background

In 1916, eight years after the founding of The University of Alberta, the School of Accountancy was created within the Faculty of Arts and Science, thus signalling the formal initiation of business education at the University. By 1922, enrolment and interest had grown sufficiently to justify a move toward establishing a Bachelor of Commerce degree program. The first six BCom students graduated in 1929, a year that also marked the creation of the School of Commerce, which was still, however, a unit of the Faculty of Arts and Science. The Deans of that Faculty acted as Chairmen of the Commerce Council until the appointment of a Director for the School in 1949. Andrew Stewart, who went on to become President of the University, served as Director until 1954 when he was succeeded by F.G. Winspear. In the fall of 1955, B.A. Lindberg, formerly of the Harvard School of Business Administration, followed Dr. Winspear as Director, a position he held until the spring of 1958.

The year 1959 brought Hu Harries's appointment as Director as well as major changes in the program. Dr. Harries mobilized Faculty resources and enthusiasm to meet new demands for high quality business education in a wide range of fields. He initiated his term of office by launching a five-year upgrading program, which included curriculum revisions and the extension of the undergraduate program from three to four years. These changes in the BCom program took effect 1 September 1960, the same date on which the School of Commerce was granted Faculty status with Dr. Harries as its first Dean.

Seven years later, in 1967, the undergraduate program was granted full accreditation by the American Assembly of Collegiate Schools of Business, an indication of the level of quality attained as a result of the upgrading program. A major step taken by the Faculty in 1964 was the introduction of a program of studies leading to a Master of Business Administration degree. Enrolment doubled between the MBA program's first and second years and increased more than six times during its first five years, from thirteen students at the start to over eighty in 1969, reaching 200 by 1976. Recognition of the high quality of the Faculty's MBA program was accorded in 1972 when it was granted accreditation by the American Assembly of Collegiate Schools of Business. This Faculty is now the only one in Canada with an undergraduate or MBA program accredited by AACSB.

During the first forty years of business education at the University of Alberta, enrolment in commerce programs grew slowly, from three students to approximately 150 by 1958, at which time the full-time staff complement had reached only six. During the sixties, however, enrolment and staff size increased sharply with almost 1,000 students pursuing BCom degrees by 1968 and full-time academic staff totalling thirty-five.

In more recent years, however, a divergence in student and staff growth rates has resulted in a student-staff imbalance which led to the imposition of a quota on admissions for 1977-78 and subsequent years. The quota is set at 210 for admissions to the first year of the BCom program plus 200 new students transferring from other Faculties at the University and from other institutions. Admission under the quota is based on past academic performance. Though the quota drastically reduced the number entering directly from high school, the long-run effects are expected to reduce the number of BCom degrees granted from 423 in 1978 to about 350 by 1981.

At a time when Alberta and Canada continue to experience a serious shortage of well-trained managers, such a reduction appears inappropriate. The critical nature of the problem, however, has been recognized and it is in light of this recognition that the increase in numbers of faculty referred to in "Recent Developments" should be viewed. In 1969 after L.C. Leitch, now Vice-President (Finance and Administration) of The University of Alberta, had served for a year as Acting Dean, E.J. Chambers assumed the position of Dean and for the next seven years guided the Faculty through a continued period of exceptional growth. After the sudden death of Dean-Elect J. Douglas Muir in the spring of 1976, Roger S. Smith assumed the role of Acting Dean for a year during which time he was appointed Dean-Elect to commence his duties in July of 1978 after a study leave in 1977-78. During Dean Smith's absence, Dr. D. Gordon Tyndall, a former Vice-President of Finance, served as Acting Dean.

Recent Developments

In recent years progress has been made in dealing with some of the Faculty's basic problems. One such problem is that of insufficient resources. Improvements in this situation occurred during 1978-79. The University administration allocated funds for the creation of five additional academic staff positions to the Faculty for 1979-80, in recognition of the shortfall in resources with which the Faculty had been working. In addition, the Board of Governors made a commitment that over the coming four years at least five additional positions will be provided to the Faculty. Both of these decisions were made to improve current management programs being offered at the Bachelor of Commerce level and the MBA level, and in recognition that current resources were inadequate to meet the needs of existing students, even if the quota on the BCom program were unchanged and MBA enrolments held constant.

There now exists a stringent quota on admissions to the BCom program. The result of the quota in 1978 was that 295 high school graduates were denied admission to the Faculty although they met the general requirements for admission to the University. In addition, 345 applicants for transfer into the Bachelor of Commerce program were denied admission although they too met requirements for admission to the University. Thus, larger and larger numbers of well qualified applicants are being denied admission to the Bachelor of Commerce program. This is extremely unfortunate given the needs of Alberta and Canada for well qualified management manpower at this time.

In recognition of the need for an expansion of the Bachelor of Commerce program, the Board of Governors of the University of Alberta took important action in 1978-79. The Board approved a proposal from the Faculty to expand the quota on admissions from 410 to 560 over a three year period. This proposal, which was sent on to the Provincial Government for the necessary funding, requests that sixteen additional academic staff positions be added to the Faculty over the coming four years as the effect of the increased number of students impacts upon the Faculty. From the Faculty and University point of view, the linking of the quota expansion to provincial funding for this specific purpose is crucial in order to ensure that the Bachelor of Commerce and MBA programs at the University of Alberta maintain a high level of quality.

A recent event of tremendous importance to the Faculty has been the establishment of the Francis G. Winspear Chair in Professional Accounting. The Chair, which enables the Faculty to add a distinguished accountant of high academic standing to its Department of Accounting, was made possible through the generosity of the Winspear Foundation. This type of support from the private sector can contribute significantly to the development of The Faculty and the establishment of the first chair is a landmark in its history. An active search for an occupant of the Winspear Chair is underway.

The greatest challenge now faced by this Faculty, and by other faculties of management in North America experiencing expansion, is to attract the highly qualified manpower needed to permit the expansion of programs. Whereas one frequently hears of surpluses of PhD's in other disciplines, the reverse is true in management education. Graduate programs in Canada and the United States produce far too few graduates to meet the expanding needs of academic institutions. In a number of specialized fields – accounting, business policy, and finance – demand is several times supply. Effective recruiting of qualified personnel will be the greatest challenge faced by this Faculty in the next five years.

In recognition of expanding needs in the field of management education in Alberta and Canada, the Faculty proceeded with the development of proposals for two new programs during the 1978-79 academic year, one leading to a degree of Master of Public Management, and the other to a PhD. Although concern has been expressed about diverting resources from undergraduate education to graduate education, it is equally important to recognize that the demand and need for such new programs exists. If the University of Alberta is to have a strong and leading school of management in the Canadian context, then such steps are crucial in the development of FBAC.

The Faculty of Business Administration and Commerce awarded more BCom degrees in 1978-79 than in any previous year. Whereas the previous high had been 412 in 1977-78, the number increased slightly in 1978-79 to 420. The quota on admissions, initiated in 1976-77, will begin to have its effect on the size of the 1979-80 graduating class. Thus, graduating classes from the BCom program are likely to be substantially smaller than the one in 1978-79, until funds are provided to enable an expansion of the quota. The number of Master of Business Administration students graduated in 1978-79 was forty-three. This number was a slight drop from the forty-seven graduated in 1977-78. The MBA program is expected to expand in the future as the demand for University of Alberta MBA graduates remains very strong.

Study Programs

The Faculty of Business Administration and Commerce presently offers two degrees: Bachelor of Commerce and Master of Business Administration.

The four-year BCom program consists of forty term-courses of three credits each for a total of 120 credits. The program has the function of providing an education in general, and providing specific education in the skills and practices of management in business, industry and government organizations. The individual student is allowed considerable flexibility with regard to course requirements. A minimum and maximum number of courses are to be taken within the Faculty. This requirement ensures that the student will acquire a sufficient working knowledge as well as an introduction to a wide range of careers.

The required courses studied within the Faculty stress the basic disciplines of economics, quantitative methods, behavioral science, and the functional areas of business, accounting, finance, marketing, and industrial relations.

The limitations of money, space, and equipment require that quotas control the number of students entering the Faculty. Admission is based on academic performance in high school. Preference is given to Alberta residents for eighty-five percent of the available positions. For the next few years the number of students admitted will be fixed at 210 from the high school level.

Career opportunities for employment of graduates are many and include an extremely wide range of occupational areas. These areas range from business economics and industrial relations to accounting, finance, and marketing. The 1979 survey of University graduate employment, conducted by the Canada Employment Centre on campus, indicates that seventy-six percent of Commerce graduates find job related employment upon graduation. Average starting salaries are $1,265 per month.

The MBA degree has a two-year program designed for students with varied educational backgrounds, such as liberal arts, engineering, education, business administration, science, and others. The particular combination of courses and length of time to complete the program depends on the academic background of each individual student.

The educational philosophy of the MBA program accords with the ideas expressed by Alfred North Whitehead: "Whatever be the detail with which you can cram your student, the chance of his meeting in after-life exactly that detail is almost infinitesimal; and if he does meet it, he will probably have forgotten what you taught him about it. The really useful training yields a comprehension of a few general principles with a thorough grounding in the way they apply to a variety of concrete details. In subsequent practice the men will have forgotten your particular details; but they will remember by an unconscious common sense how to apply principles to immediate circumstances."

The MBA program stresses the common principles that underlie the operations and mangement of all types of organizations. It attempts to develop the student's critical, analytical, problem-solving, and decision-making capabilities, and to give him both a sense of mission and a sense of confidence in his abilities. The MBA program is designed for well-qualified students preparing for professional careers in management: consequently admission requirements are high.

A proposal for the establishment of a Master's of Public Management degree has passed through various University committees, the latest of which was General Faculties Council. The proposal now goes to the Board of Governors. If approved there, it will be forwarded to the provincial government with a request to fund the program.

A survey conducted in 1978 by the Faculty of Business Administration and Commerce identified 115 vacant academic positions in Canadian business schools, and another sixty positions expected to become available in 1979-80. These alarming figures are one reason that the Faculty is currently working on a proposal for a PhD program. If the proposal results in the establishment of a program, students would have the opportunity to study in specialized areas such as accounting, finance, organizational behavior and management science. At the very best it will be several years before the PhD program will become reality. However, the increasing demand for such a program suggests that the Faculty will be successful in its proposal.

Enrolment Trends: The Male-Female Mix

The past decade has shown a rapid growth in the number of women enrolling in the Bachelor of Commerce program at The University of Alberta. As the following table shows, female enrolment grew from six percent in 1970-71 to twenty-nine percent of the total enrolment in 1978-79. Whereas the number of women in the BCom program has remained relatively constant for the past three years because of the imposition of the quota in 1977, women students have continued to grow as a percentage of total enrolments, and their absolute number would also have grown rapidly had the quota not been imposed. In percentage terms the rate of increase in female enrolment has been extremely rapid, growing by 544 percent over the past six year period from 1970-71 to 1976-77, prior to the imposition of the quota. During the same period male enrolment grew by only twenty-nine percent.

The situation in the MBA program has been similar, and it too shows a sharp increase in women as a percentage of total enrolment in recent years – from twelve percent in 1974-75 to twenty percent in 1978-79.

Serving The Wider Community

Members of the Department of Accounting continue to devote substantial time to committee responsibilities with the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Alberta. Staff members have been active with the ICAA Policy Planning Committee, the Interprovincial Examinations Board in Chartered Accountancy, the Professional Board of Examiners in Chartered Accountancy in Alberta, the Education Committee of ICAA, and the Canadian Academic Accounting Association. Individuals also contribute to the education programs of the professional accounting associations. Courses have been taught for the ICAA and the Society of Management Accountants. Numerous other courses offered through the Faculty of Extension, Banff School of Advanced Management, and in in-house training programs in the public and private sectors are instructed by Faculty staff.

Other professional services to the community include the establishment of the Alberta Foundation for Economic Education, and significant contributions to the development of course materials for Athabasca University and service to the community in the area of arbitration and grievance proceedings. Positive steps in the development of curricula for the Banff School of Advanced Management will result from the Task Force report on International Business and the professional Services of Faculty members.

The Management Advisory Institute

The Management Advisory Institute (MAI) was created in 1975 when the Board of Governors signed an agreement with the Federal Department of Industry, Trade and Commerce. Under the terms of its agreement with the University, the Department of Industry, Trade and Commerce agreed to provide funding of $50,000 during each of the first three to five years, after which time the Institute was expected to be self-supporting.

Specific goals for the Institute continue to be dissemination and sharing of current knowledge with the wider management community, development of the management consulting industry's capability to serve Alberta business, and service in a consulting capacity on specified direct assignment.

The Board of Directors of MAI includes representatives from small and medium sized businesses, consulting firms providing services to businesses of all sizes, accounting firms, a labor union, special interest groups affected by MAI activities, the University President and members from various Faculties including the Deans of Business Administration, Engineering, and Extension.

In the past two years, the Institute has provided consultation on a non-fee basis to over forty individuals and businesses and on a fee basis to fourteen organizations including governments, businesses, and associations.

The Institute is a member of the Canadian, Alberta, and Edmonton Chambers of Commerce and the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. It recently became a member of the International Council for Small Business and participated in its first meeting in Canada in June 1979.

The Kenya Project

In 1971, the Faculty of Business Administration and Commerce contracted with the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) for sponsorship of a technical assistance program at the University of Nairobi in Kenya. Under the terms of this agreement, the Faculty undertook to contribute its resources and expertise to the development of a high quality Faculty of Commerce at the University of Nairobi, one that would be self-sustaining and predominantly African. Specifically, the Faculty agreed to work toward:

  • expanding and developing the graduate and undergraduate programs in the Nairobi Faculty of Commerce,
  • training Kenyan staff and post-graduate students in Canada and in Kenya, in order that they might ultimately fill all academic positions in the Nairobi Faculty, ‘ providing resource teaching and research materials for the library, ‘ developing a viable administrative support unit,
  • improving liaison with the Kenyan business community and government bodies, and
  • furthering applied research activities undertaken in cooperation with the Kenyan management community.

The Faculty's former Dean, E.J. Chambers, served as Project Coordinator in Edmonton during the first five years. From 1971 to 1974 the late J.D. Muir was Dean of the Faculty of Commerce in Nairobi and from 1974 to 1976 D.G. Tyndall served in Nairobi as Project Coordinator. John Brown also spent two years in Nairobi on secondment from the Faculty and was Project Director from 1976 to 1979, at which time Rolf Mirus was appointed as Project Director.

Today, many of the objectives listed above have already been attained or are close to being achieved. Unfortunately, a reduction in funds available for this type of project through CIDA means that the Kenya project as it currently exists will come to a close in 1980. Nevertheless, it is hoped that funds will become available, perhaps from other sources, to enable the program to be continued. In this regard, it is worthwhile to review the progress made.

By 1976 an MBA program had been established and the undergraduate program much improved. By that time, too, over twenty members of the total staff of forty-six were Africans, as compared with two in 1971. At one point, nine Canadians were serving in Nairobi, a number that was reduced to one by the end of the first five years. In the 1978-79 academic year, Kenyans continued to play an increasingly important role within the Faculty of Commerce at the University of Nairobi, to the extent that, out of a total staff of twenty-seven, sixteen were Kenyan.

The Faculty is operating efficiently in every sense of the word. With a staff of never more than thirty, already over 800 people have graduated from the Faculty with BCom degrees and over thirty MBA degrees have been awarded. These degrees are well regarded by students and employers and demand in Kenya for such graduates remains very strong.

In 1975 the Kenyans requested extension of the original agreement for a further three years. Although the Project had successfully achieved the design and implementation of curricula indigenous and relevant to the African management community and had also accomplished the goal of placing Africans in the majority of staff positions, there remained a need for assistance in strengthening the Kenyan research capability.

Chief among the innovations in the three-year extension agreement approved by CIDA was provision for short-term exchange visits between Kenyan and Canadian academic staff members. Faculty from The University of Alberta visited Kenya in the summer of 1977 to serve as external examiners and a limited number of secondments have been arranged to allow senior research scholars to assist the Kenyans to build a solid research foundation at the University of Nairobi.


The Faculty of Business Administration and Commerce is committed to continuing research in a wide variety of administrative, entrepreneurial, and managerial fields. With the assistance of the J. Douglas Muir Research Fund, established to commemorate the late Dean Elect who died suddenly in 1976, projects such as the development of an integrated energy model for Alberta, a study of consumer satisfaction and dissatisfaction, and investigation into the nature and functions of organization structures have prospered. Also, a number of external agencies have supported many different research endeavors. The National Research Council, for example, has supported an analysis of scheduling policies in queuing systems, the Canada Council continues to assist work on relative price changes and inflation, occupational health and safety regulations are the subject of a study funded by the Institute for Research on Public Policy, and the Government of Canada's Department of Communications currently supports research into the ownership of Canadian broadcasting institutions.

Such research topics and projects, however, are merely representative of the many worthwhile inquiries underway in the Faculty. In addition to these types of projects which have received generous financial support, numerous other research activities are undertaken in the Faculty. Faculty members regularly contribute to major learned journals and are the authors of specialized monographs which cover the whole gamut of the Faculty's interests, from economics to managerial strategies and from airline regulations to investigations of the Canadian federal income tax system. In addition, Faculty members participate actively in many public and professional meetings. Here they present research papers and, on many occasions, assist in the administration of such meetings and conferences.

To sum up: In the Faculty of Business Administration and Commerce, there is a heavy commitment to research, both pure and applied. Equally important to members of the Faculty, however, is the publication of their findings either in print form or in the delivery of research papers at public and professional meetings, at which they can converse with their colleagues both within and outside The University of Alberta.

Published March 1980.

ua logo