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Job losses, program cuts likely with 7.2 per cent U of A funding reduction

Alex Migdal
Gateway Staff
Mar 08, 2013

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.


If U of A is serious about becoming a world class research institution, and if “excellence” is the desired mandate to guide this institution, it is unclear how raising graduate tuition offers a viable longterm solution to our complex financial problems. U of A grad students already bear the burden of previous cuts. To “work with the government,” as the President says, in order to remove the provincial cap and raise graduate tuition would have a detrimental impact on much more than just recruiting the best future students in the world to cold northern Alberta. An increased number of graduate students already work for the university, teaching classes, labs, studios, and tutorials as primary instructors at low GTA wages that have not increased, and which remain a fraction of the cost of tenured instructors. Due to previous cuts, the university now increasingly relies on cheap graduate labour, while class sizes, on the other hand, have dramatically increased, as well as the sharp increase in international student admission, both of which already take graduate students away from their research, with no increased financial rewards. Raising tuition would have have repercussions directly affecting the quality of education for undergraduate students, growing number of international students, and ultimately U of A’s reputation across the board. Such a move seems shortsighted with detrimental long term repercussions.

Posted by anonymous on Mar 10, 2013

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