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Rethinking the university: a case study

Alan R. Davis (Office of the President, Kwantlen Polytechnic University, Surrey, Canada)
Rajiv Jhangiani (Office of the Vice Provost Teaching and Learning, Brock University, St. Catharines, Canada)
Diane Purvey (Office of the Provost and Vice President Academic, Kwantlen Polytechnic University, Surrey, Canada)

On the Horizon

ISSN: 1074-8121

Article publication date: 19 December 2022

Issue publication date: 2 February 2023




This study aims to describe and illuminate the ways in which Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) – an urban, undergraduate institution with a strong focus on teaching, learning and related research and scholarship, and a substantial international student population – adapted to pandemic conditions in 2020 in an effort to meet community and pedagogical priorities, institutional/legal responsibilities and strategic goals.


Three institutional leaders at KPU draw together their respective insights and experiences, reflecting on how governance, pedagogy and operations were impacted by COVID-19.


After two years of continuous operation during the COVID-19 pandemic, and with the strong support of its learners and the faculty, KPU has undergone significant pedagogical and technological shifts to become a multi-modal university for study, teaching and administration.

Research limitations/implications

This is a “practitioner paper” with a practical focus on institutional leadership and adaptation in a period of rapid adjustment. It is more of an accounting and reflection piece than a critical analysis.

Practical implications

It offers post-secondary leaders’ insights into ways in which institutional values and community needs inform policy-making, operations and innovation in education.

Social implications

KPU’s domestic and international student constituencies are complex and required unconventional post-secondary strategies regarding faculty autonomy and growth, de-colonization and inclusion.


KPU has a distinctive mandate in British Columbia and its commitment to experiential learning – typically associated with hands-on education – presented unusual challenges for delivery. While research-and-teaching universities were tested by COVID-19, their tests were largely alike. KPU’s experience illustrates what practical- and teaching-focused institutions confronted.



Davis, A.R., Jhangiani, R. and Purvey, D. (2023), "Rethinking the university: a case study", On the Horizon, Vol. 31 No. 1, pp. 11-23.



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