Open Mike – December 2014, Looking ahead at potential budget challenges

By December 8, 2014Uncategorized

University of Lethbridge President and Vice-Chancellor, Dr. Mike Mahon, addresses faculty and staff about what's happening at the U of L

As we near the end of the fall semester and turn our focus to a well-earned Christmas break, I’d like to thank everyone for your contributions to what has been an excellent year at the U of L.

The signals the U of L is receiving from the provincial government suggest that another challenging budget is on the horizon.

Your commitment to teaching and supporting our students and each other throughout the year is what creates such a positive atmosphere here at the University and what drives our institution forward.

As we look ahead to 2015, the signals we are receiving from the provincial government suggest that we likely will be facing another challenging budget. Given the current price of oil, and the corresponding impact on provincial revenues as well as the subsequent impact on the Alberta economy, this is hardly surprising but remains a tough reality to face.

In recent weeks, we have been advocating to the government that the post-secondary sector is still recovering from the extremely difficult budget we went through two years ago. We were forced to make some very difficult decisions at that time and are still not back to the level we were financially before going through that budget cycle.

As well, our universities must remain at the forefront of innovation. It is this innovation agenda that will enable Alberta to build a knowledge-based economy and to move beyond the cyclical challenges posed by a provincial budget built off of resource revenues.

While we have not yet been provided any specifics about our 2015/16 operating grant, we are working through budget scenarios at the University that once again include reductions. Through this, I will be as transparent as possible and communicate regularly as more information presents itself and as we work through our own budgeting process. When we faced earlier reductions, we were guided by three values:

1.     Our people define our University and are our greatest strength
2.     High quality is central to all that we do
3.     Access to our University is a fundamental belief

Through the preparation of our budget for 2015/16, we will remain committed to these values.

As we continue to liaise with the provincial government about the importance of further investing in a knowledge-based economy, we are pushing hard to maintain the momentum of the Destination Project. Just last week we announced the final design selection for the Science and Academic Building and have continued to impress upon the government how vital it is for this project to continue moving forward.

The fact that the University maintained its vision and was clearly focused on continuing to achieve its strategic goals through a difficult budget two years ago, was testament to the people here at the U of L and their commitment to providing a quality educational experience for students.

That attitude persists today and I trust that we will once again take a very thoughtful and purposeful approach to working with the budget as it is presented.

There will always be ebbs and flows when it comes to the operating funds available to the University, and while we continue to find ways to manage the numbers to maintain an exceptional experience for our students, we are advocating for a stable funding model that recognizes the invaluable role that the post-secondary sector plays in building our provincial economy.

We are able to do this because of the quality people we have working on our campuses. In recent weeks you were asked to fill out a survey related to the People Plan and I thank those who took the time to respond. The People Plan is very important because it is designed to help us maintain our commitment to the quality of the U of L through maintaining our commitment to our people. A strong institution is built on having solid supports for the individuals who drive the institution and the People Plan is dedicated to this.

We may be facing a difficult budget in the coming months but I am confident in the way we have responded in the past and how our people have always been at the heart of pushing the U of L forward. We continue to progress as an institution, our reputation continues to grow provincially, nationally and beyond, and I see our people leading us through once again in the new year.

Source: Unews