It’s too early to tell how the University of Alberta will handle a 7.2 per cent reduction in base operating funding from the provincial government, President Indira Samarasekera said Friday afternoon, calling the $43 million cut a crisis for the university.
The reduction is a “serious and significant loss in funding,” Samarasekera wrote in a letter to the campus community, noting the inevitability of job losses and vertical cuts to services, units and programs.
“It’s not good public policy, pure and simple,” she told reporters, referring to the government’s failure to notify the university in advance of the cut’s severity. “This province needs highly educated people in every profession. We already have a shortage.”
The Ministry of Enterprise and Advanced Education has extended the deadline to May 31 for the 2013 Comprehensive Institutional Plan, which includes the institutional budget for 2013-14. More time, however, will be needed to make decisions, Samarasekera said.
“We have a long way to go. Our funding is nowhere near where it needs to be, so more investment is needed. What I want to do is to prevent a further erosion of the quality we have now achieved and to continue to build on it to the next platform.”
The university will strategically examine programs and services, which Samarasekera said will involve eliminating a “great deal of choice for students,” including the number of faculty and staff.
“We have the possibility of people who are retiring. We have the possibility of reassigning teaching responsibilities,” she added. “There are some flexibilities in the system, but I think we’re going to need more flexibility.”
The university may also have to consider raising graduate student tuition, which is currently among the lowest in the country and has been discussed in recent months, despite a provincial cap that covers graduate tuition.
“I think we need to learn from the past and not be so counter-cyclical. Universities need back what the government committed: stable, predictable, appropriate levels of funding,” Samarasekera said. “That, I think, is good public policy.”
The Board of Governors will meet next Friday to discuss the university’s budgetary crisis.