“Budget” (Excerpt from the “Dean’s Report” to FAS Faculty Board) (13 Feb. 2009)

By Alistair MacLean, Dean of Arts and Science; excerpt from Faculty Board Minutes, pp. 3-4.

[In this excerpt the Dean projects budget-cuts of 5.5% in 2009-2010, 6% in 2010-2011, and 8% in 2011-2012, and proposes “to suspend admission in September 2009 to course combinations which have had 25 or fewer students enrolled over the last three years.” The initiative to suspend admissions, especially to language programs, went through despite the passing of a motion against it at the next Faculty Board meeting (3 April 2009; the meeting scheduled for 6 March was cancelled). It provoked a demonstration in front of Richardson Hall (26 March) and an unsuccessful letter campaign (July-September) to save language-and-literature programs such as Italian.

This is a good illustration of purely financially motivated cuts to programs in advance of academic planning. Indeed, the Dean goes on to note that “While the Principal-Elect has indicated his intention to have a major review of the University next year, we can not do nothing while we wait for this to take place. In the Faculty of Arts and Science we are, therefore, going ahead with a number of initiatives which we hope will improve our financial position while impairing our quality as little as possible.” And he concludes that “Our goal must remain the same, to protect quality in what we have left when we emerge from the present financial circumstances.” The fact of “doing less with less” was thus avant la lettre.

The use of a numerical criterion such as “25 or fewer students enrolled” to show a program’s non-viability is likewise a purely financial rather than an academic measure; it might be noted that the number used in this context used to be 10, and that in the FAS’s second draft Response (p. 15) it is creeping up to 50.]

Budget

The recently announced Federal Budget and the forthcoming Provincial Budget provide an important context for the University financial situation. Most spending is for economic stimulus measures that are “timely, targeted and temporary”. Some of the most salient features relevant to the post-secondary environment include:

  • A $2B infrastructure fund to support deferred maintenance, repair projects and construction at post-secondary institutions. 70% of this will be targeted to the universities.
  • $750M for CFI, $150M for the competition currently under way and including the launch of one or more new competitions by December 2010.
  • Granting agencies budgets will be reduced by $17.7M in 2009-2010, $43M in 2010-2011 and $87.2M in 2011-2012.
  • No additional support for Indirect Costs Program.
  • Additional $87.5M for Canada Graduate Scholarship Program and $3.5M for internships in science and business. This will produce about 1,000 masters scholarships and 500 doctoral scholarships.

While we do not yet know the full intentions of the Provincial Government, the Premier has indicated that major priorities will be stimulating the Ontario business climate and rebuilding Ontario’s infrastructure.

One implication of government actions taken in response to the current economic situation is that three years from now both Federal and Provincial Governments will have substantial deficits. Paying down those deficits is likely to be a priority with which post-secondary education will have to compete. That is, the effects of this recession are likely to have substantial influence beyond the next three years.

The Faculty budget meeting with the Vice-Principal(Academic) and his colleagues was held on January 28, 2009. As far as we can judge it went well. Our overarching aim is to protect quality in a constrained fiscal environment. The Faculty Office’s plan for meeting the projected cuts is to distribute it over the next three years:

  • 5.5% in 2009-2010;
  • 6% in 2010-2011;
  • 8% in 2011-2012.

The ability to do this depends on a number of assumptions. Perhaps the largest assumption is of the number of resignations or retirements which are projected to occur.

Action on the budget has not, however, stopped and the Dean expects it to continue for the foreseeable future. First, we are continuing planning for the 2009-2010 budget year. Our specific plans for the 2009-2010 budget year were to a large extent guided by the necessity to produce a budget by January 26, 2009 and were focused on trying to achieve immediate objectives by the most effective means possible, while trying to give the Faculty time for more measured planning. We now have to turn to a longer term view of what we must do. Planning for the future has, of course, to take place within the University goals and must be consistent with them. While the Principal-Elect has indicated his intention to have a major review of the University next year, we can not do nothing while we wait for this to take place. In the Faculty of Arts and Science we are, therefore, going ahead with a number of initiatives which we hope will improve our financial position while impairing our quality as little as possible.

In order to help to structure future planning we have reviewed enrolments, graduation rates and faculty complement in concentrations with a view to suspending entry to degree combinations with limited viability or sustainability. Specifically, the proposal is to suspend admission in September 2009 to course combinations which have had 25 or fewer students enrolled over the last three years. This information has been distributed to departments and decisions have to be made by April. Departments have been asked to examine degree combinations in which they are involved and make a case to their Associate Deans by February 28, 2009. Meetings between Undergraduate Chairs, Department Heads and the Associate Deans (Studies) to encourage discussion of this proposal have taken place and individual meetings are continuing. Note that this is not a proposal to suspend admission solely on the basis of the number of students enrolled, but if departments do not present a case as to why enrolment should not be suspended it will be concluded that there is agreement.

The Faculty Office is also asking departments to review course enrolments with a view to eliminating courses with fewer than 15 students.

The Dean stated that the Faculty has made a start on what needs to be done. What lies ahead will be more difficult to achieve, will more deeply affect the nature and quality of the education offered by the Faculty, and will be subject to intense scrutiny by faculty, students, staff – and alumni. Our goal must remain the same, to protect quality in what we have left when we emerge from the present financial circumstances and to preserve a foundation on which growth can take place.

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