From the President’s Desk: March 1, 2018

On Tuesday of this week, the federal government tabled Budget 2018. As I shared in an earlier post this week, the budget contains…

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On Tuesday of this week, the federal government tabled Budget 2018. As I shared in an earlier post this week, the budget contains significant renewed investment over the next five years in CIHR ($345.7M), SSHRC ($215.5M), and NSERC ($345,7M), the Canada Research Chairs program ($210M), the Canada Foundation for Innovation ($763M), and a number of other important initiatives.

Since the release of the Fundamental Science Review nearly a year ago, Canada’s academic research community has mobilized to reinforce the report’s message that Canadian researchers — especially ones in their early and mid-career — need greater access to unfettered research funding for basic scientific research and curiosity-driven scholarship. With an influx of a total $1.22B over five years into the Tri-Councils and an additional investment of $210M over five years for CRCs, with an intended focus on supporting Tier II chairs for early career academics, this budget takes a major step toward answering the needs of our academic community.

I know that many of you advocated strongly for this renewed investment, as did my presidential colleagues and I in partnership with Universities Canada and U15. Our collective efforts made a difference. Work remains to be done but having a unified voice, as well as strong leadership from the Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science, and David Naylor, the author of the Fundamental Science Review, has led to an outcome that we can celebrate.

Strong federal research funding programs play an essential role in sustaining the University of Alberta’s research and learning environment, which is why the news from Budget 2018 is so important. Internally, we have also been working towards strengthening the university’s financial position as we finalize the budget for 2018–2019. As you know, budget planning began months ago. All faculties and units have outlined priorities and prepared 2018–19 budgets, based on planning assumptions set out early in the fall.

We assumed that there would be no increase in domestic tuition — an assumption which was confirmed by the Government of Alberta in late November. Given the financial challenges that the province is only now beginning to emerge from, we have continued to make prudent planning assumptions in our budget development. Also in October 2017, we shared with you that the university has a long-standing structural deficit in the annual operating budget, which must be tackled in order to ensure the long-term financial health of the university. In light of all of these factors, senior leaders have been planning for a 4% budget reduction for the coming year.

In many faculties and units, preparing for this anticipated reduction has involved difficult decisions and created uncertainty and concern for all of us. I want to thank all of you for the efforts to identify where reductions and efficiencies can be realized. The 2018–2019 budget is now moving through governance and will go before the Board of Governors for final approval at the March 16th meeting.

While the budget has inevitably been a key administrative priority over the last several weeks, our focus — as always — remains on the academic mission and priorities of our institution. As I announced in last week’s Quad, we have launched the search for a new principal for the Peter Lougheed Leadership College with a renewed vision for the college’s future. In early February, I announced the successful conclusion of the search for a new Vice-President Research with the appointment of Matthias Ruth, who will be joining us on May 1.

Last week it was also announced that a new Vice-Provost, Indigenous Initiatives position is being developed. This position will build on the foundational work by the faculties and the university to ensure strong coordination and collaboration across our campuses and with external communities. In For the Public Good, we committed to creating a long-term, sustainable response to the TRC’s Calls to Action because universities have a critical role to play in Reconciliation. Ongoing reporting from the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, as well as from the Stanley and Cormier trials, are vital reminders of how much this work matters. The creation of this new vice-provost position will increase the U of A’s capacity to move forward towards lasting change through research, teaching, and shared understanding. Our goal is to build and foster an inclusive learning and research environment where Indigenous and non-Indigenous students and scholars can move together on the path to Reconciliation both on and off our campuses.

David Turpin
President and Vice-Chancellor