From the President’s Desk: Budget Update, March 13

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Dear Colleagues,

Thank you for your patience and flexibility as we work to understand the impact of current guidelines from Alberta Health relating to large gatherings and post-secondary institutions. At this time, all in-person classes and in-person exams have been suspended for today. As Andrew Sharman noted in the FYI Immediate email sent last night, we will have an update for the community no later than Sunday, March 15. Please continue to watch the website and your email for regular updates.

While classes and midterm exams have been suspended for today, the campus is open and other activities and services are operating normally, including a meeting of the Board of Governors this morning. We are in the process of finalizing a revised institutional budget for 2020–21 that will go before the Board of Governors for approval later this month, and I write to provide an update. Today the Board discussed the options we propose for addressing our significant and immediate challenges and the anticipated impacts to our community.

As you are aware, the University of Alberta received an 11% cut to our provincial funding in the Government of Alberta’s 2020 budget. This reduction in provincial funding includes an overall 8.9% cut to our Campus Alberta grant and another 2% reduction from the elimination of targeted enrolment expansion as a separately funded item.

The total 11% reduction to our 2020–21 budget is in addition to a 6.9% cut applied to 2019–20 funding levels. The total reduction is $110.3 million over the two years. Our challenge, like that faced by many across our province, is serious.

As we deal with the reduction in funding, fundamental restructuring will be required and we must be prepared to consider all options. This will include reviewing how and where we deliver programs, reducing and centralizing administrative services and activities, reducing library resources, and disposing of assets. In 2019, 30 low enrolment programs have been closed and more will follow in 2020–21. We have also decommissioned or closed Michener Park, Alumni House, and Ronning House at Augustana Campus. Further reductions in our facilities should be anticipated.

We must also understand the impact the budget will have on staff and faculty positions. There have been and will continue to be job losses, through attrition, lay offs, retirements and position closures. By the end of the fiscal year on March 31, 2020, we project a total of 400 lost jobs in 2019–20. For 2020–21, we estimate a loss of approximately 635 additional positions. The university’s people are its greatest asset, and our goal is to reduce the loss of many highly-skilled and valued colleagues. Along with other post-secondary institutions across the province, we are working with the government towards having severance costs deficit financed. If this is approved, this would save 265 jobs, reducing job losses in the coming year to approximately 370.

These are extraordinarily challenging times and I appreciate your continued dedication and your collaboration. For over 100 years, the University of Alberta has been integral to Alberta’s growth and prosperity. U of A faculty, graduates and research have been vital to the development of Alberta’s key resources and industries. We are seeding the economy and the workforce of tomorrow in areas as diverse as artificial intelligence, bio-technology, and reconciliation. Let us come together and work to protect the U of A’s vital role and contribution to the province as we plan for the future.

The revised budget is still pending Board approval. It will begin to move through the governance approval process next week at a meeting of the Academic Planning Committee and will end with a special meeting of the Board of Governors on March 26. I will continue to provide updates as we proceed.

David H. Turpin
President and Vice-Chancellor