Budget cuts across the board

Faculties forced to cut budgets by 15 per cent over a three-year period

Vice-Principal (Academic) Patrick Deane says the 15 per cent budget cut could result in changing degree requirements for certain programs.
Vice-Principal (Academic) Patrick Deane says the 15 per cent budget cut could result in changing degree requirements for certain programs.

Queen’s will be experiencing a 15 per cent budget cut over the next three academic years.

In an e-mail to faculty on Nov. 15, Principal Tom Williams announced a 15 per cent budget cut will be applied to all faculties and units of the University, including the administration, starting in the 2009-10 academic year.

Principal Tom Williams said the University’s vice-principals and faculty deans voted unanimously for the cuts.

“We recognized what our revenue was going to look like over three years and we had a good idea of what was going to happen to our costs because we have the three-year salary settlement,” he said. “We planned on the basis of getting no increase on provincial grants and from the state of the economy.”

The 15 per cent cut comes after a four per cent budget cut was applied for the 2008-09 academic year.

“I think the University has had base budget cuts virtually every year but one for the last 10 years,” he said.

Williams said the 15 per cent cut will happen over three years to minimize damage caused to the University.

“I said, ‘How can we handle these cuts in a responsible way?’ We came up with a proposal doing it over time,” he said. “The reason we’re going for 15 per cent in total over three years is because different schools and faculties will opt to make different size cuts in different years depending on their own situation. We wanted to preserve as much flexibility as we could.”

Williams said the University is counting on individual schools and faculties to find creative ways to decrease their budget and increase their revenue.

“Each faculty will tackle it in its own way,” he said. “I would hope that whatever groups are formed, students will be asked for input.”

Williams said task forces will be employed to find out different ways to generate revenue by faculty, school or the University.

“One example would be that there are some cost savings we can come up with if we were to do things differently. An example would be right now anybody in the University who travels can make their own arrangements,” he said. “If we said to people in the University ‘You have to use our travel agency,’ we could save a lot of money. If we can get the community to accept things like not having as much freedom to do your own thing, we collectively could save a fair amount of money.” Williams said he plans to make a second announcement after the Board of Trustees meeting in December.

Vice-Principal (Academic) Patrick Deane said cuts were expected to follow the principal’s statements before senate several months ago about financial state of the University.

He said departments will need to come up with inventive solutions to manage the cuts, which is one of the reasons they will be spread over three years.

“If you think about the options open to a department head, it’s very different if you think you’re going to have to do it for only one year.”

Dean said there will be efforts made to reevaluate the distribution of resources to make spending more efficient.

“Everything from the way in which we offer courses to the number of credits that might be required for a particular degree program.” He said some faculties are looking at changing degree requirements and other may yet come to that.

“If all you do is make cuts to what you’re already doing, you very quickly get to a crisis in the quality of what you’re offering,” Deane said. “I think it’s very important to think of this not just is term of cuts, of taking things away, of cutting things out.”

Deane said the four per cent budget cuts last year were never meant to be a complete solution to the problem.

“Last year essentially was a one-year decision,” he said.

Deane said it’s also important to consider the wider context.

“Most Ontario universities are facing cuts of this magnitude or worse,” he said. “We have to recognize the reality.”

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