From the President’s Desk: Forthcoming Provincial Budget

As you know, the provincial government will table its budget this afternoon, beginning at 3:15 pm. This is a highly anticipated budget…

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As you know, the provincial government will table its budget this afternoon, beginning at 3:15 pm. This is a highly anticipated budget, and we will be watching to see how it impacts the University of Alberta and the Campus Alberta system as a whole. Later this evening, I will write again with highlights from the budget, so please watch The Quad for an update.

I can let you know now that until we receive our formal budget letter from the government, we will not know in detail how the budget will affect us. However, today will give us a clearer sense of the challenges we must address. It is important to remember that today’s budget will focus on the current 2019–20 fiscal year. If we learn today that there are changes to the government grant for 2019–20, we will need to act immediately to address those changes.

As I noted in my State of the University Address, we should expect change. The government has clearly stated its intention to cut public sector expenditures as one strategy in their goal of addressing the financial health of the province and reducing the deficit by the end of its 4-year term.

In support of this objective, the MacKinnon Report recommended that the government make a change in the funding sources for post-secondary institutions, aiming for a revenue mix comparable to that in British Columbia and Ontario. In those provinces, there is significantly less reliance on government grants than here in Alberta, coupled with higher contributions from tuition and alternative revenue sources and more entrepreneurial approaches to program financing and delivery.

The senior leadership team, including deans, chairs, and vice-presidents, has already begun planning in anticipation of significant change. We have a strong foundation. Our community worked hard to eliminate a structural deficit within our operating budget. We have developed an extensive toolkit that will enable us to make the best decisions possible. This toolkit includes 3-year budget planning tools and the new activities-based budget model that provides the transparency university leadership needs to see how potential changes in enrolment, tuition, research activity, and space could affect faculty and unit budgets over time. We’ve initiated the UniForum program to help us better understand the university’s administrative systems and benchmark our services and costs against peer institutions. In addition, with the completion of major reviews of our bicameral governance system, we have the decision-making channels we need to make effective, strategic decisions in a transparent and collaborative manner.

I mentioned above that I will write again later today on The Quad with an overview of budget highlights. Please watch for that update.

And, next Wednesday, October 30, Provost Steven Dew, Vice-President (Finance and Administration) Gitta Kulczycki and I will be hosting a campus forum to review what we have learned, hear your questions and ideas, and plan together for upcoming changes. Please join us at noon on Oct 30th in Council Chambers.

Until later today,

David H. Turpin
President and Vice-chancellor