The University Budget

2019-20 Budget Information

Updated: December 4, 2019

On October 24, 2019, the Government of Alberta tabled its 2019 budget. This budget indicated that the provincial government is now moving to a new model for funding post-secondary institutions, which is based on recommendations from the MacKinnon Report. This change includes:

  • reductions to the Campus Alberta grant (average of 5% cut across sector with differential cuts to institutions based on a perceived ability to manage an in-year reduction)
  • the development of a new performance-based funding formula (implementation April 1, 2020)
  • tuition increases of up to an average of 7% in each of the next three years

What does this mean for the University of Alberta this fiscal year (2019-2020)?

The reductions to the University of Alberta’s provincial funding for 2019-20 are: 

  • $44M (6.9%) cut to the U of A’s Campus Alberta grant 
  • One-time cut of all Infrastructure Maintenance Program (IMP) funding, a loss of $35M
  • The total reduction for 2019-20 is $79M

How will the University of Alberta address this in-year reduction of $79M?

We are absorbing as much of the cut at the institutional level as possible, and applying the residual amount differentially between the faculties and academic support units. 

At the institutional level, we have cancelled all possible maintenance and infrastructure projects, drawn upon limited financial reserves for investments (pending the approval of the Board) and applied our small contingency fund. These actions total $34M. 

The remaining $45M shortfall will be handled through a one-time, in-year cut of 4.7% to the faculties and an average in-year cut of 8.0% to the academic support units (applied differentially). 

While these cuts will be applied on a one-time basis for this year, the ongoing reductions to our funding will be rolled into the planning process for the 2020-21 budget.

What do we still need to learn?

Over the coming days and weeks, we will be in discussion with ministry officials to determine specific details around the planned reductions, and future enrolment targets.  We will also be in conversation with government to learn more about:

  • New funding formula and potential performance metrics and
  • Magnitude and implications of cuts to provincial research agencies
  • Budget impact on clinical services
  • Government changes to mandate for labour negotiations

What are the preliminary budget planning parameters for 2021-20?

Provost Steven Dew and Vice-President (Finance and Administration) Gitta Kulczycki have been working with deans, vice-presidents and other senior leaders to assess anticipated changes to both revenues and expenses in order to set preliminary planning parameters for the next three years. As always, these parameters are based on our best estimation of revenues and expenses given available information. To learn more about university budget planning, visit How the University Plans Its Budget.

For more details on the planning parameters for 2021-20 and the following two years, click here.

We must make decisions today that are in the long-term best interests of the institution.

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 an administrative benchmarking program to help us understand better the university’s administrative systems and ensure that our administrative processes are effective and efficient. 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.

We must change. Our goal is to ensure the U of A’s leadership and excellence in teaching and learning for decades to come.

Historically, Alberta’s post-secondary institutions have been strongly supported and the U of A has stewarded this public investment well, delivering on our core mission of providing education and research on par with the best in the world. We have consistently met government-set enrolment targets, and we have expanded our program offerings in areas of high demand. Our retention and completion rates are the highest in the province. Our graduates are highly skilled and in demand. Recent global employability rankings place the U of A first in Alberta and second in Canada. We attract more than $500 million dollars in external research funding to Alberta annually, and over the last four years, we have experienced record levels of philanthropic support.

We must continue to deliver on our core mission to these high standards, even as the government shifts its funding priorities and formula. The government has indicated that we will have some levers for generating new revenue, including tuition increases. We cannot, however, expect our students and their families to shoulder this burden alone. We will set aside funding for needs-based student financial assistance. And, we must look to how our academic and administrative functions can evolve to ensure that the U of A continues to grow as a leading national and international institution of higher education and research.


More about Resource Planning and the university budget

A primary responsibility of Resource Planning is the development of an annual consolidated budget for the University of Alberta. The budget is intended to provide a consolidated budget for the upcoming fiscal year as well as a projected budget for the two subsequent years.  The consolidated budget is developed in accordance with Public Sector Accounting Standards and the requirements established by the Government of Alberta for the University’s Comprehensive Institutional Plan.

The University of Alberta Budget document provides a comprehensive overview of the university’s budget, inclusive of all its component parts. It has been developed internally, for our university community. Free from the prescriptive requirements of the CIP, this document is meant to provide a plain language review of the budget. Our goal is to increase both the transparency and understanding of the university’s budget. It is also meant to highlight considerations that have informed assumptions and decisions.