Low enrolment continues to impact the university’s operational budget
In an internal memo sent out last month, UVic announced that a four per cent budget reduction will come into effect on April 1, 2023. The reductions will occur across campus, affecting all areas of the university with the exception of some student services and support.
This reduction comes after the six per cent reductions made for 2022-2023. The memo also announced an end to the hiring pause and review which had been in effect since the beginning of the school year in response to a predicted deficit of $17 million.
In an emailed statement to the Martlet, Tony Eder, associate vice-president of academic resource planning, stated that the primary reason for the budget cut is a decline in enrolment, especially from international students.
According to the UVic website, for 2021-2022 “student fees, including tuition, make up the second-largest part of [their] operating revenue, at just over $170 million.”
“We are making a limited number of investments and/or protecting a small number of areas from the reduction,” Eder said. These areas include “scholarships and bursaries, some clinical health and wellness supports, child care, and central supports specific to Indigenous students and initiatives.”
With these exceptions, “all units on campus will need to contribute to the 4% budget cut,” Eder said.
UVic’s call for each unit to individually make cuts means that many administrators and deans will have complicated decisions to make. “Generally speaking, the leader of the faculty or unit is responsible for budget decisions in their area,” Eder said.
Eder’s statement indicated that an acceptable choice for departments to contribute to the reduction would be leaving empty staff positions vacant for the foreseeable future.
Sebastian Bonet is a sessional instructor in Sociology, who has concerns about the implication of the four per cent cut for both instructors and students.
“As a sessional instructor, I’ve already been told my course allocation in Sociology has been cut from four courses to two,” Bonet said in an email to the Martlet. “Grad students too are likely to face the brunt of these cuts. If courses offered shrink, then so will Teaching Assistant contracts. And undergraduate students are unlikely to be consulted about which courses are cut.”
The university, however, is working on solutions, primarily focusing on rebuilding enrolment.
“As we change and evolve to better support students and the core academic mission of the university, it’s critical that we continually look to things we can do better,” said Eder.
In his statement, Eder said that UVic is “exploring opportunities to attract new learners, such as through micro-credentials and professional programs.”
Dr. Stephen Ross, a professor of English, spoke to the Martlet about his concerns surrounding the cut and the university’s plans for rebuilding enrolment.
“I’m glad it’s not my problem to solve,” Ross said. “Speaking for myself alone, I really resent having the senior leadership team download the responsibility for generating revenue streams onto faculty whose jobs do not include generating revenue streams for the university.”
Ross worries that the cut will put pressure on faculty to overwork outside their fields. “I teach hundreds of students every term. That’s how I generate revenue for the university,” he said.
Ton Tran is the UVSS director of outreach and university relations and an undergraduate student. He has concerns about UVic’s transparency regarding the budget reductions and UVic’s finances in general.
“I think I’m worried about sometimes the lack of initiative UVic takes to express problems within the university,” Tran told the Martlet. “The only reason why we really learned about the [forecasted] deficit was because we were asking for support with the Food Bank.” Last summer, the UVSS Food Bank came up with a $200,000 deficit. Tran explained that the university denied their requests for help by citing their own deficit prediction.
According to Eder, “UVic will share more information with our campus community once the Board of Governors approves the budget framework.”
Ross, however, agrees that the university could be more transparent. “It’s not always easy to be informed at UVic.”