From the President's Desk

Alberta 2030 Strategy: Highlights

New strategy gives U of A greater flexibility to grow and innovate.

  • April 29, 2021
  • By Bill Flanagan

This morning, I was pleased to join Minister of Advanced Education Demetrios Nicolaides at the public release of Alberta 2030: Building Skills for Jobs, a 10-year strategy for the future of higher education and skills in our province. At the public release, I had the opportunity to speak to the University of Alberta’s pivotal role in the social and economic future of this province. 

The review sets an important strategic direction for the sector. In one key outcome, Alberta 2030 proposes governance reforms that will deconsolidate the university’s financial statements from the Government of Alberta’s Public Accounts. This important reform will provide the U of A with greater flexibility to grow and innovate, playing an even more important role in advancing economic and social opportunities in Alberta and beyond. 

Alberta 2030 also aims to enhance the experience of students, boost our capacity to translate and commercialize research, and facilitate greater collaboration and connection with our community and industry partners as well as partners across Alberta’s post-secondary sector. We will continue to work closely with the Government of Alberta to build on this potential and ensure an even better future for our students, advance research and innovation, and ensure the U of A’s long-term financial sustainability. 

There are four areas that I would like to highlight, each one a major focus of our advocacy work over the past several months and a key outcome for the U of A.

Support for students 

Today’s commitment to expand non-repayable needs-based aid is excellent news for our students, especially those who may face financial barriers to post-secondary education. Other commitments, such as expanding work-integrated learning (eventually available to every undergraduate student), developing strategies to increase access and participation for Indigenous learners, and enhancing digital infrastructure to increase access to online learning, will also help to open up more access for students and enrich the learning environment during their studies. These all align closely with the strategic areas for teaching and learning outlined in the University of Alberta for Tomorrow. We look forward to working with the government to advance these commitments.

Budget deconsolidation

Deconsolidation represents a major step towards financial sustainability for the U of A, freeing the university to grow and innovate. While it will take some time to implement, the importance of this change cannot be understated. By removing the university’s financial statements from the Government of Alberta’s Public Accounts, the U of A will have greater control over its financial affairs, including spending carry-forward funds for strategic investments and managing our assets more effectively. It places us on a level playing field with the other U15 universities, most of which are not constrained by consolidation with provincial budgets. In effect, it makes it possible for us to use multiple strategies—especially where we see opportunities for growth—to build our long-term financial sustainability.

Innovation and commercialization

Throughout our history, the U of A has been a research leader, making the discoveries that have built Alberta’s leading industries, improved human health, advanced Canadian society, and fostered a wide range of evidence-based public policy change. We continue to lead the development of emerging technologies, industries, and businesses. There is also an enormous opportunity to do more to develop Alberta’s environment for innovation, commercialization, and entrepreneurship and expand the impact of U of A research. We will continue to work closely with government, industry and sector partners to strengthen Alberta’s innovation ecosystem, building on excellence from fundamental research through application and commercialization.

International recruitment

Alberta 2030 also highlights the importance of attracting even more international students to Alberta, many of whom may stay after graduation and contribute to a growing and thriving Alberta. As Alberta's leading university that draws the largest number of international students, we applaud this focus on attracting and supporting international students.

More than 20 percent of U of A’s students come from more than 160 countries, and international recruitment continues to be another key opportunity for future growth. We know that international students bring ideas and connections from around the world to our university and province, with almost half of our international grad students becoming citizens or permanent residents. We must continue to strengthen our ability to attract and retain highly skilled people to Alberta. We will have a lead role to play in the proposed, system-wide brand approach, Education in Alberta.

Alberta 2030 highlights the critical role that post-secondary institutions play in building skills for jobs and developing the medical, scientific and social innovations Alberta needs for future success. We will continue to work closely with the Government of Alberta to bring our ideas and perspective forward. We will work together to ensure that we are part of a thriving public post-secondary system that educates citizens, builds a creative and entrepreneurial workforce, and supports research and innovation that improves lives, diversifies the economy and strengthens communities.

Bill Flanagan
President and Vice-chancellor