The Academic Program Transformation Task Force would like to invite the campus community to a town hall where a draft version of the academic prioritization template will be presented.
TransformUS town hall: Academic program template Thursday, May 23, 2013 9:00 am – 10:00 am Arts 241 (Neatby Timlin)
This template, once finalized, will allow academic units to submit information in relation to the criteria being used to prioritize all academic programs at the University of Saskatchewan. This town hall will be your opportunity to view and provide feedback on the template before it is finalized and released to the campus community in mid-June.
TransformUS update: Support service criteria finalized
To all faculty, staff and students,
The Support Service Transformation Task Force wishes to thank all those that took the time to post comments and questions to the blog on the draft criteria. All feedback received was reviewed by the task force and some changes were made to the final criteria and their descriptors.
The Support Service Transformation Task Force has now posted the final criteria and weightings that will be used to prioritize all support services at the University of Saskatchewan. You will find these at transformus.usask.ca.
Thank you again for your feedback. We will continue to provide updates at transformus.usask.ca throughout this process.
Kevin Schneider and Bob Tyler
Support Service Transformation Task Force co-chairs
TransformUS update: Academic program criteria finalized
To all faculty, staff and students,
Based on feedback provided by the campus community and discussions that
have taken place within the Academic Program Transformation Task Force, our
task force has finalized the list of criteria and the weightings that will be
used to prioritize all academic programs at the University of Saskatchewan.
These criteria and a full update from our task force can be found online at transformus.usask.ca.
We want to express our sincere appreciation to all those who took the time
to provide their feedback. This feedback was valued and will continue to inform
the process as we work on the template to be used to collect data from colleges
We encourage you to continue to visit transformus.usask.ca
weekly to receive updates on our progress throughout this process.
Beth Bilson and Lisa Kalynchuk
Academic Program Transformation Task Force Co-chairs
2013-14 Operating Budget Approved
Our board of governors has approved the university’s 2013-14 operating
budget, which contains a projected deficit of $3.3 million. While this deficit,
at less than one per cent of projected expenses for the year, demonstrates
progress against our financial challenges, we still need to ensure that
expenses will not outpace revenues going forward.
For 2013-14, we project operating budget revenue of just under $468
million, reflecting increases from the prior year primarily in provincial
funding and tuition revenue, both announced in March. Operating budget revenue
represents about half of total university revenue; the remainder is restricted
for specific purposes, such as research and capital, and cannot be used for
Our projected operating budget expenditures of just over $471 million for
2013-14 reflect increases in salaries and benefits and the estimated
partial-year effect of anticipated pension payment legislation.
The $3.3 million projected deficit for 2013-14 incorporates the following
actions taken to date to generate budget reductions. Without these actions, the
projected deficit this year would be higher.
$10 million in permanent
budget reductions, including workforce planning
$2 million of additional
planned spending in 2013-14 for infrastructure renewal (RenewUS) that the
university has chosen to defer
$3.3 million relating to
the usual adjustments that occur during the detailed budgeting process as
a result of updated information such as utility costs
During 2013-14, we will work to address the remaining $3.3 million
operating budget deficit by continuing to prudently manage spending and by
implementing actions during 2013-14 in accordance with the ongoing operating
budget adjustments initiative.
The early work under operating budget adjustments is encouraging and has
helped move us forward with about $10 million in permanent budget reductions.
We will continue our efforts to prevent the large gap, which in 2012 was
projected at $44.5 million by 2016, between our expenditures and revenues. We
are committed to ensuring our university maintains a position of financial
sustainability while responding to a changing post-secondary environment.
Ultimately, we will align our resources in support of becoming a better
university, more strongly focused on our priorities.
Information about the university’s operating budget adjustments can be
found at www.usask.ca/finances.
An update on the operating budget adjustments initiative and where we are at
with regard to our financial challenge will be provided at our next financial
town hall meeting which will take place from 12:30-1:30 p.m. on June 13, 2013
in Convocation Hall.
Provost and Vice-President Academic
Acting Vice-President Finance and Resources
Post secondary education funding
To all faculty, staff and students,
On May 10, 2013, Ken Steele, creator and editor of Canada's leading post-secondary news daily, Academica's Top Ten, will be at the University of Saskatchewan to deliver a presentation titled "The Future-Ready Campus." In this thought-provoking look ahead to the campus of 2025, Ken Steele will place a special focus on funding trends both nationally and internationally and discuss how he thinks these funding trends may affect the campus of the future. At the conclusion of his presentation there will be time set aside for a question and answer session. We encourage you to attend.
Ken Steele's The Future-Ready Campus: Planning with 2025 in Mind Friday, May 10, 2013 Neatby-Timlin Theatre (Arts 241) Presentation: 9:00 – 10:30 am Break and refreshments: 10:30 – 10:45 am Question and answer session: 10:45 am – 12:00 pm
We find Ken Steele's presentation timely with recent questions posed regarding provincial funding for the University of Saskatchewan. While we have spoken a lot about our situation over the past year, we imagine you may wonder if we are unique in our financial challenges.
The University of Saskatchewan is a member of the U15 – a group of research intensive, medical/doctoral institutions similar to ours with whom we compare ourselves as peers. From our environmental scan, it is apparent that all U15 institutions are facing significant financial challenges and are being asked by their respective provincial governments to look for efficiencies. In response to these questions, and in preparation for Ken Steele's presentation, we wanted to provide an update on the landscape of post-secondary education funding in Canada, specifically with our U15 peers.
Over the course of the past few months, many provincial governments, including our own, have released their 2013 provincial budgets outlining funding for post-secondary education for the upcoming year. As you may already know from previous memos sent to the campus community, the University of Saskatchewan received about a two per cent increase in our provincial operating grant for 2013-14 base operations, which will help pay for salaries and benefits, utilities and other basic expenses. This is close to what was expected and therefore does not alter the need to address our projected budget shortfall of $44.5 million by 2016.
As for 2013-14 provincial post-secondary education budget highlights from the provinces where our U15 peers are located, we know the following:
British Columbia has tabled a 2.5 per cent decrease in operating funding over the next 3 years. It is important to note this budget has not yet been passed and a provincial election is currently underway.
Alberta will see a 6.8 per cent decrease in operating funding in 2013-14. In addition, the Government of Alberta has implemented a tuition freeze, mandated program changes to eliminate duplication and, most recently, their Advanced Education Minister has asked institutions to look at salary freezes for faculty and staff. This comes at a time when Alberta universities were anticipating a two per cent increase per year for three years beginning in 2012-13.
Manitoba will see a 2.5 per cent increase in operating funding in 2013-14, coupled with a tuition cap set at the rate of inflation. Manitoba universities were anticipating a five per cent increase.
Quebec saw a reduction of $124 million in provincial funding in 2012-13 with an additional cut of $124 million for 2013-14 that can be spread out over the next seven years.
Nova Scotia, in 2013-14, is in the final year of a three year plan to reduce operating funding by 10 per cent, with cuts of three per cent planned for 2013-14.
Ontario's provincial budget will be announced in early May.
As you can see, our university is one of only two U15 institutions to date that has received an increase in provincial government funding to post-secondary education in 2013-14. In addition, due to our multi-year planning and budget forecasting, we were able to begin planning for our projected deficit a year ago when our Multi-Year Budget Framework was approved. Many of our peers are just now beginning to look at the impact funding cuts will have to their institutions over a longer planning horizon. At many of these institutions this is resulting in immediate across-the-board cuts, hiring freezes, layoffs and more. Because of our planning and budgeting processes, we have the time to take a strategic approach, making the best decisions for the future of our university.
Please continue to visit www.usask.ca/finances for the latest on Operating Budget Adjustments, to submit your questions, ideas and/or rumours, and to view media articles from across Canada on the budget situation at the University of Saskatchewan and other Canadian post-secondary institutions.
We look forward to seeing you at the next financial town hall on June 13, 2013 from 12:30-1:30 pm in Convocation Hall where we will present further information on the post-secondary education funding landscape, provide an update on our 2012-13 budget and present the 2013-14 detailed operating budget.
Brett Fairbairn, Provost and Vice-President Academic
Greg Fowler, Acting Vice-President Finance and Resources
Preferred Travel Provider Selected
Efforts to develop a more automated process for the university’s travel and expense management needs have been underway for some time. As reported in On Campus News earlier this year, the University of Saskatchewan has selected UNIGLOBE as its preferred travel provider, following a request for proposal process last spring and board approval this past December. As well, we are in the early stages of implementing an online travel and expense tool with Concur Technologies Inc. aligned with UNIGLOBE’s travel management services.
With these arrangements, the university is on its way to a seamless online process for travel bookings and expense claims. The current manual, paper-heavy process was identified by the campus community as an opportunity for improvement during the Service and Process Enhancement Project (SPEP); the travel and expense management project is moving forward as part of the “Maximizing the Value of University Spend” area of Operating Budget Adjustments.
You can begin using UNIGLOBE for your travel arrangements now, while still following current travel procedures. By booking with UNIGLOBE, you will benefit from a preferred travel agency fee of $29 compared to an average $60-70 charge for booking through other travel providers. You can, of course, continue to make your bookings yourself with no travel agent fee, and once the online travel booking system is available, no fee will be charged when you book online. Our current travel guidelines and policies will continue to apply with the new online system, maintaining current travel options while making access to preferred suppliers and associated cost savings easier.
For UNIGLOBE’s assistance with travel reservations, call: (306) 500-7525 (Saskatoon) 1-855-515-6746 (toll-free)
Pilot testing of the travel and expense online tool will begin this June. Starting next fall, we will gradually roll out the system—with training—to colleges, schools and administrative units across campus. Once available, you will access the system simply by logging in to PAWS. We hope to have the roll out completed by April 2014.
Immediate savings with the preferred travel agency fee that UNIGLOBE is offering, as well as savings realized when the online process is implemented (improved rates on airfare, hotels, reduced paper waste) will directly benefit associated department, unit and research budgets. As well, moving to a preferred travel agent and the online process will allow us to gather detailed information about where our dollars are currently being spent (e.g., which airlines, hotels, etc.). We’ll use this information to leverage our total spending and improve our negotiating power with suppliers.
Taking the lead on TransformUS
On Campus News sat down with the four co-chairs of the TransformUS taskforces - Beth Bilson and Lisa Kalynchuk on academic, and Kevin Schneider and Bob Tyler on support services - to talk about the past, present and future of program prioritization at the University of Saskatchewan.
OCN: Why did you want to be on the TransformUS taskforces?
Bob Tyler (laughing): "Want" is a funny word. But I believe in the process and I think we need a comprehensive, systematic prioritization of what we do because the alternative is decision making the old fashioned way without transparency.
Lisa Kalynchuk: For me, I think this can make the university better. It's a worthwhile endeavor so that we can emerge as a stronger institution that is more focused and more efficient in providing the kind of services to the province that we ought to be providing.
Beth Bilson: We're in really stressful circumstances. I mean, this has arisen out of financial concerns that the university has. I think that this does present an opportunity to look at the university as a whole and to talk again about what the top priorities for the university are and to see that our programs and services are aligned with those priorities.
Kevin Schneider: I think it is an important time for the university and it's important to do this process transparently, collegially, fairly and so to be part of a group of committed individuals looking at program prioritization is a worthwhile endeavor.
OCN: Do you think the fact that this is driven by budget creates more fear?
BT: I think it amps up the fear because it is absolutely crystal clear that something has to go. But the alternative is across the board cuts ... which we say we don't want so this is the alternative and a very worthwhile undertaking. Generally, we look at prioritization and assessment and we don't usually see any impact, but this time it is starkly clear that decisions have to be made. There will be casualties from the process and that worries people. Why wouldn't it?
BB: And it (the projected deficit) is a big number and I think that creates anxiety. It really is significant.
KS: It is being driven by budget cuts, not necessarily budget. Certainly to look at the process and to do some prioritization around budget to try and look at priorities and see if programs are appropriately funded is an interesting thing to do. But having this notion that there are cuts at the end of it, that makes it real.
BT: The interesting thing is that the province hasn't cut our funding; we are doing budget adjustments during a time when funding is still increasing from the province. It's just the trajectory of our expenses and the trajectory of our revenues are different so that we have this gap even though we're not being cut.
LK: Well, I think that shows we are being proactive; we are anticipating that there are going to be problems given the slopes of those lines, cost line versus revenue line.
KS: I know there have been some concerns, you know, will we have enough time to look at the sheer number of programs that may be identified, but I think the people that are on the task forces are very committed to making sure that they are dealing with things fairly.
BT: I'm hoping once we get rolling, campus will take comfort in the fact that there are 47 people, many of who have been on campus for a while, engaged in this process and it's not just a few people or just one person making these decisions. Once we get rolling and people understand the alternative, maybe that will be the case and that should give people comfort although it hasn't at the moment.
BB: And we're representative of a wide range of academic disciplines and administrative services.
LK: And perspectives.
OCN: Budget cuts have happened at the U of S before. What's different this time?
BT: As far back as 1990 and probably before, we were saying we can't be all things to all people, we're spread too thin, we're doing too much and so we've had to somehow get what we do with our resources under control for a long time. So this isn't a brand new situation. It has some special elements this time around, but we're really doing the things we've talked about doing for a long time on this campus. We are spread like oil on water; we're really, really thin. We have to make some decisions on who we are and what we are going to do.
We talk about aligning budget with planning. The reality is we have not done a great job of linking budget to integrated planning. We haven't asked units to prioritize what they are going to do and the things they want to do to any great degree. So we need to connect budget to priorities and that's what this process is all about.
LK: I think the difference from the previous ones, and I wasn't here for the early ones, is they were more across-the-board cuts. This is a different situation because were actually making prioritization decisions about what we should be doing and what we shouldn't be doing.
BT: The early 1990 cuts were very much across the board, the last time around there were some differential cuts.
BB: Yeah, there was that period when it was tied to things like enrolment. One of the things we keep saying to people is that this isn't an academic review. The quality of programs is of course a relevant consideration, but we're not expecting to find the university doing a lot of things that aren't worthwhile. There may have been good reasons for particular programs when they were founded and they may be serving a purpose and they may be high quality programs, but the question is, if the university has to stop doing something, are these programs aligned with the highest priorities at the university. That I think is the question we are focused on.
OCN: Have people been reacting differently to you since you were appointed to the taskforces? We're you prepared to be seen as bearers of bad news?
LK: Actually yes, some people have. I've noted coy smiles and certain looks since I've been on the task force.
KS: I think that is unfortunate if that's the case. We're only making recommendations. What we're trying to do is make plain the process; have everyone put their best foot forward presenting the programs; and, with the committee, make some decisions as to how they come out in the list of priorities.
BB: We would hope that if we're going to spend a lot of time on this that the information we provide is useful and that it actually will be the basis of some decision making but we're not making the decisions. Any decisions about ... elimination, merger or anything like that, would go through the normal governance procedure.
There is certainly a high degree of awareness of this project on campus. I think people are apprehensive about it and I think they're certainly reacting to their colleagues who are on the task forces in a way that makes that clear.
BT: I hope at some point, and I hope it's not too far down the road, that people will say "I understand why this has to happen and that's a pretty decent group of people. It is unfortunate that we have to do this at all, but we do. Better them than others I don't know."
LK: If you look at the longer-term view, it is ultimately going to help the university be stronger and be better. That's a positive. You can't shy away from making difficult decisions, and having a transparent process is better than just having arbitrary decisions made behind closed doors.
BT: Our modus operandi for many, many years has been shying away from making difficult priority decisions. I take some comfort in the fact that planning and priorities committee took this to Council and they endorsed it without a whole lot of negative commentary. Council didn't say this is the perfect process, but Council did say we approve this in principle because we think it needs to be done.
LK: On the flip side, there will be programs identified for additional resources and that's exciting because we are going to identify some programs that are high priorities that might be able to expand or might be able to do more than what they are doing now.
BB: And I think we're also asked to look for opportunities for reconfiguration of existing programs which seems to me also offers some exciting possibilities.
KS: I think the key point is that these committees will have broad perspective on all the academic and non-academic programs, on the budget characteristics of these programs. That is something that has never been done on this campus before.
BT: We have 25 members on one task force and 22 on the other and if we are going to get 75 per cent approval of a motion it is going to take some discussion. That broad perspective is going to be incredibly useful and valuable.
LK: It's human nature to view change as scary and frightening or threatening or intimidating but change can also be exciting. As much as people might be afraid of outcomes, they should also be excited about what the U of S is going to look like after we get through this process.
BT: The difficult thing is that cuts have a real human element there, and there already have been human casualties in this budget adjustment exercise. There is no getting around that. That's unfortunate, but a reality when you have to reduce your expenditures and 75 per cent of your resources are in people.
OCN: How do the committees ensure biases don't play a part in the process?
LK: One of the reasons you have larger task forces is to try and eliminate individual biases as much as you can. Everyone has a voice, but if everybody else in the room doesn't share the bias, you aren't going to be able to influence the group.
BB: The other thing is we're planning to collect information in a really structured and consistent way. That makes it more difficult for people to react emotionally because we actually have to go through a number of specific factors and people have to decide on the basis of those factors.
BT: The criteria, weightings, categorization, as much as possible, represent a quantitative exercise based on the information provided by the program or functional area along with solid qualitative information. One person's bias won't have any significant impact.
BB: And their responses will be public so the campus community will be able to see the informational basis we are using.
BT: I think task force members are fully aware that there will be people on the task forces that could be significantly affected by the outcomes of this entire process.
OCN: How do you see the process unfolding over the coming weeks?
BB: We keep trying to communicate this process as fully as possible as we go along and create opportunities to ask questions and register comments on different things. We've invited input on criteria and weightings at this point and will be inviting comments on the templates we are going to be using. So there will be opportunities to connect with the process. If they think we are going to go away and spend the next six months in the dark, we're hoping that won't be the impression they have.
BT: That would be easier for us. It doesn't make our lives easier to be revealing where we're at and what we're doing because that generates commentary and criticism. But it is the only way to do it.
LK: It is a lot more work to go through all these processes and seek input and communicate broadly with the community, but again we want to establish the credibility of the task forces and create a level of trust. We want people to know that we are trying to do our absolute best and we all believe in this. We understand the seriousness of the exercise.
OCN: How do you fit this big commitment into your already very full days?
LK: To some extent they become fuller days. You get even more disciplined with your time. All four of us are committed to doing this and committed to doing it as best as we can so you just do what you have to do. Not a very satisfying answer but it is really how it works.
BT: We meet in the afternoons, there is a lot of homework in the evenings and on weekends. It adds to the usual stuff we do that way. I didn't sit down and say, I can find the time for this, this and this. I probably should have, though.
BB: The other thing is that, although it creates a hardship to have such a short time frame to do this, it does help to know that in terms of your own commitment, you understand that there is a horizon but it is going to be pretty frantic between now and then.
KS: We're pretty motivated to be done by the deadline.
OCN: What has been the most surprising thing is this process?
BT: What surprised me most is how enthusiastic all task force members are to get rolling and down to work.
LK: You're right, I've never seen people so eager to do such a time-consuming task. I've never experienced that on a committee before.
BB: I've noticed that there's a high degree of common understanding of what the job is. Not that there aren't details to work out, but I think people very early on had a common understanding of what the mission of these taskforces is and wanted to get moving.
From "Taking the lead on TransformUS," by Kris Foster, On Campus News, April 26, 2013
2013-14 Provincial Funding - Detailed Overview
As promised in our March 20 memo, we now have a more detailed overview of the 2013-14 provincial budget and its implications for the University of Saskatchewan. The Province of Saskatchewan will provide our university with a total of $359.3 million in operating grant, capital funding and targeted funding for 2013-14, an increase of $35.8 million over 2012-13. Highlights regarding this 2013-14 increase in provincial funding are:
After considering the portion of new funding for targeted envelopes such as the International Centre for Northern Governance and Development and expansion of student seats in the College of Medicine, there will be about a two per cent increase in our operating grant for 2013-14 base operations, which will help pay for salaries and benefits, utilities and other basic expenses. This increase is in line with our current Multi-Year Operating Budget Framework projections and affirms the need to continue with our operating budget adjustments.
Part of our new funding must be allocated for specific, or targeted, uses that include:
approximately $1.3 million for nursing education including expansion of the distributed learning initiative in the College of Nursing;
$150,000 for an additional five nurse practitioner seats;
a total of about $2.7 million for expansion of student undergraduate and graduate seats in the College of Medicine;
$4 million for operation and management of the Health Sciences Building;
a $300,000 increase over 2012-13 for the Canada Excellence Research Chair in Water Security, which means the province has provided us about $3.05 million towards their $10 million commitment to this chair.
About $10.6 million in cash funding will be available for the sustaining capital grant. While about $4 million less than the previous year's funding, this will help us address things such as deferred maintenance and upkeep, as well as adapting spaces to better meet academic needs. We will also receive $4 million in cash funding for continued construction of the Health Sciences project (including renovation of the A and B wings) and anticipate this amount will meet projected construction costs for 2013-14.
Our university will receive supplementary funding of about $13.4 million which we will use to help repay principal and interest on our debt.
Consistent with 2012-13 levels, targeted provincial funding will continue for operations of the Canadian Light Source ($4.1 million), VIDO ($3.5 million) and InterVac ($2.1 million). Provincial funding directed to Innovation and Opportunity scholarships of nearly $2 million will also continue.
In May, following approval by the Board of Governors, full details of the university's 2013-14 operating budget will be available. Our next financial town hall will be held on June 13 from 12:30-1:30 p.m. in Convocation Hall. In the interim, please continue to visit www.usask.ca/finances for the most up-to-date information about university finances.
Brett Fairbairn Provost and Vice-President Academic
Greg Fowler Acting Vice-President Finance and Resources
TransformUS update: Your feedback requested
To all faculty, staff and students,
On March 18, 19 and 20, our TransformUS task forces participated in a series of workshops to learn more about the program prioritization process, determine task force co-chairs, and develop draft criteria, weightings and a categorization system for comment by the campus community. We are pleased to provide an update to the campus community on the progress they have made.
The task forces' initial thinking regarding the criteria, weightings and categorization system and directions for providing your input on these are outlined below. This will also be presented to University Council for consideration at its April 18 meeting. The task force co-chairs will be present at this University Council meeting to provide further information on how the draft criteria, weightings and categorization system were arrived at and the processes that will follow as the task forces move forward with finalizing these key elements.
Beginning in late April, once the criteria, weightings and categorization system have been finalized based on all input received, the task forces will begin their work with colleges, schools and units to collect data from the campus community regarding all programs and services.
Your comments and feedback on the criteria, weightings and categorization system will be gathered through a password protected web form.
Gov’t grant increased as expected but budget changes continue
The University of Saskatchewan's provincial operating grant for 2013-14 is close to what was expected but it does not alter the need to address projected budget shortfalls.
In its budget, released March 20, the provincial government announced an increase of $35.8 million to the U of S, including an increase of about 2.1 per cent to the annual operating grant, cash for building renewal and maintenance, and support for specific initiatives. While she expressed appreciation for the province's investment, President Ilene Busch-Vishniac said in a news release the university would continue to focus on adjusting its annual operating budget with the aim of achieving financial sustainability.
"Our attentions will still be focused on streamlining and seeking efficiencies in what we do and strengthening our focus on the areas we have identified as most important," she said. Speaking to Council March 21, Busch-Vishniac said that from her perspective, "the university did very well," particularly considering the seven-per-cent cut to post-secondary funding recently announced in Alberta and other financial challenges faced by institutions across the country. The grant increase "speaks volumes about the commitment of our government to our continued success."
Ginger Appel, director of budget strategy and planning in the office of Integrated Planning and Assessment, said ongoing discussions with government representatives about provincial growth forecasts and about U of S priorities assist the university in making projections at budget time. "Having that good working relationship helps us anticipate a bit more accurately what kinds of grant increases to expect. This year, we planned for about two per cent, which is what we received. The next step is to use what we know for sure about our government support to shape our operating budget for the coming year."
The grant increase announced in the provincial budget includes both operating and capital funding. Of note is $4 million earmarked for continued renovation and construction of the Health Science complex as well as $4 million for operating the facility. Funds were also provided for an increase to the number of seats in the College of Medicine.
Busch-Vishniac noted in the release the U of S will continue to work with the province to secure funding for upkeep of university buildings as well as to address deferred maintenance issues.
Provost Brett Fairbairn also spoke about the budget in his report to Council, pointing out the government continues to provide funding for initiatives like the Sylvia Fedoruk Canadian Centre for Nuclear Innovation, the Global Institute for Food Security, the water research chair and the cyclotron facility. He added the provincial government will help address accessibility for students through additional funding for student aid, the Saskatchewan Advantage Scholarship and the Graduate Retention Program.
He also pointed out that the Board of Governors announced tuition rates for the coming academic year on March 14, almost a week ahead of the provincial budget, a move that supports the university's principle of not balancing the books with tuition. "We don't need to know what's in the provincial budget to set tuition fees."
Appel said university officials will do a detailed analysis of the grant announcement over the coming weeks with the institution's 2013-14 operating budget expected to go before the board for approval in May.
From "Gov’t grant increased as expected but budget changes continue," On Campus News, March 28, 2013
Building capacity for TransformUS
With membership on the TransformUS task forces set, program prioritization expert Larry Goldstein was recently on campus talking with those involved to ensure the process got off to a good start.
"The way I've designed my consulting practice is to try to build institutional capacity with every engagement that I undertake," explained Goldstein, who worked with both task forces to establish operating principles, decision making protocols, draft criteria and weightings to be used during the academic and service program prioritization process.
"The whole idea here is that we want to start this well. We do all of the work that I'm directly involved in on campus over these few days and in all likelihood you won't see me again. I will have extensive telephone and email contact, but by and large they (the task forces) do the work by themselves now."
Goldstein is clear that his involvement has nothing to do with determining outcomes. "I want this to be the University of Saskatchewan process not the Larry Goldstein process, not the Bob Dickeson process," he explained, referring to he author of Prioritizing Academic Programs and Services on which TransformUS is based. "TransformUS is designed specifically by the people who are undertaking it to work for the university."
Goldstein, who during his 35-year career in higher education has worked with more than 700 post-secondary intuitions on various challenges, said program prioritization is a necessary step for a few significant reasons.
"I wouldn't call it a trend, but one of the major factors influencing this is that the vast majority of institutions are very good at adding programs to respond to new interests and not so good at eliminating things that have outlived their usefulness."
When that factor is combined with a few other current realities, the need for program prioritization becomes quite clear, he said.
"Consider the implications of the world economy and how that translates into reduced government funding. Then add to that the fact that higher education no longer enjoys the position of respect, in some sectors, that it used to and you have people questioning the value of higher education even though all the data support how important higher education is for lifetime success. People are questioning the cost against what you get for it."
When post-secondary institutions are faced with all of those factors, they have to do two things, he said. "One, they need to focus better and two, they need to have some mechanism for ensuring that the investments they are making are in the most appropriate activities. And prioritization is a process for achieving that."
There are two main motives for undertaking a prioritization process, he explained. "One is to respond to an anticipated budget shortfall and the second is to make the university the best it can be in light of its current resource realities. That's the motivation. This is not being undertaken for the objective of cutting things away from the university."
To be successful, Goldstein continued, the process must be transparent and treat every program fairly, "and I'm seeing that in textbook fashion here at the U of S."
To that end, each taskforce has developed criteria and weighting systems that are designed to work equally well for all programs and functions on campus. He added the template that will be used for evaluation was also designed to give every program and function on campus the chance to demonstrate what it is contributing to the university and how it is helping the university be successful.
"My belief is this (prioritization) should be the first stage of any strategic planning process. The rationale for that is that very few institutions know how to finance a plan that they develop. They have wonderful ideas but no resources. This is assessment, planning and resource allocation all rolled into one. If you do this first, you identify the resources that will be freed up to be reallocated within the institution and you will have identified those things that have outlived their usefulness."
From "Building capacity for TransformUS: Consultant ensures program prioritization starts well," by Kris Foster, On Campus News, March 28, 2013
Workforce Planning update
To all faculty and staff,
The following is an update on the university's Workforce Planning project.
Workforce planning is essential to the university's success. Academic and administrative leaders are making changes in our workforce that are strategic, sustainable and that will ensure our positions—approximately 7,500 faculty and staff—are aligned with the university's teaching, research and outreach priorities.
As reported in January and February, workforce changes are ongoing. Changes are not only focused on job loss, but also on strategic hiring and on implementing efficiencies. We continue to meet with academic and administrative units to support them in making decisions and although the final numbers are not yet known, we can anticipate that up to 100 more positions (including some vacant positions) will be eliminated over the next several weeks.
Last week, the Provincial Budget announcement reported a modest increase to our funding. As this was close to what was anticipated, we will continue on our planned path to reducing a projected deficit. We must continue to streamline our operations in order to maintain financial sustainability, and with seventy-five percent of our operating budget allotted to salaries and benefits, a significant portion of these efforts will come from reducing and refocusing our workforce.
Job loss is a difficult process at any time and I acknowledge the uncertainty created by the extended length of time to undertake these changes. The extended time frame is indicative of the level of attention paid to the decisions, the changes that result from the decisions and our commitment to caring for those who are facing job loss as well as those remaining in the work place.
At the February 26 Financial Town Hall, I responded to questions regarding how terminations and layoffs occur and how individuals are treated. I want to repeat what I said about this process. Top employers make sure people are supported through the transition that surrounds job loss. What may appear harsh on the surface is rooted in the best way to care for people—the employee facing job loss as well as students and colleagues. Employees are not escorted off campus by security guards. We have contracted with expert transition consultants who remain with the employee to protect them and others from immediate emotional reactions, to ensure the employee has their personal belongings and that they have a safe way to get home. The transition consultant also remains as a contact for the individual to provide career counseling, job search advice, financial advice and transition management.
Once again, I encourage you to take care of yourselves and each other and for anyone who would like additional support, please take advantage of our Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Access to online information and services is available through the Employee tab in PAWS or contact the EAP office at 966-4300.
If you have questions or concerns related to workforce planning, you may contact my office at 966-6285 or submit questions and find the most current information about the university's Operating Budget Adjustments process and related projects at www.usask.ca/finances.
Barb Daigle, AVP Human Resources
Provincial Budget Announcement
Government of Saskatchewan tabled the provincial budget, which includes the
University of Saskatchewan’s operating grant and capital funding for 2013-14
along with targeted funding specifically for continued construction of health
sciences and the operating funding of the associated space, as well as
continued expansion of student seats within the College of Medicine. The government has indicated we will receive a $35.8 million
increase in total operating, capital and targeted funding for 2013-14 over last
confirmed support for the Sylvia Fedoruk Canadian Centre for Nuclear
Innovation, the Global Institute for Food Security, the Canadian Light Source,
VIDO-InterVac, and the water research chair, as well as additional support for
the cyclotron. The province is also
committed to increasing accessibility for students through additional funding
to student aid, the Saskatchewan Advantage Scholarship, and the Graduate
provincial funding is close to our expectations, it does confirm the need to
continue with our operating budget adjustments to secure our financial
sustainability. A more detailed analysis of how provincial funding will impact
our finances will be shared with you in the coming weeks.
budget will be announced March 21, and we will provide leaders across the
university with an update on any implications for the U of S.
financial town hall will be held on June 13, 12:30-1:30 p.m. in Convocation
Hall, which is a change in date from what was previously announced. We will
provide an overview of the provincial operating grant, capital funding and
targeted funding at this town hall, along with an Operating Budget Adjustments
update and discussion.
Fairbairn Provost and
Greg Fowler Acting
Vice-President Finance and Resources
For more information, contact the Provost’s Office at
TransformUS work begins
Membership of the TransformUS task forces has been announced and the deadline for their reports that will rank all academic and administrative programs at the U of S is set, but exactly how the groups will get from here to there has yet to be determined.
"What I told (the task force members) was that all I know for sure is when and how they'll start their work, and when and how they'll end it," said Provost Brett Fairbairn. "Once they get going, they will organize their own work."
The job of the task forces is to set criteria they can then use to review and rank all academic and administration programs across campus with an eye to budgetary changes. Based on their final reports, decisions will be made about whether each program deserves more or less investment, or even if a program or activity should be eliminated.
TransformUS is based on a model detailed in Robert Dickenson's Prioritizing Academic Programs and Services: Reallocating Resources to Achieve Strategic Balance , but Fairbairn pointed out that prioritization processes used by other universities following Dickenson's model have all looked quite different. The two groups will spend three days in March with a facilitator who is familiar with the many variations of the Dickenson model and how they have been used at different universities. The groups will then organize how they want to approach the task and what information or research they require.
Task force members were selected from 227 names submitted in a nomination process. What they all share, said Fairbairn, is a dedication to the university. "They all see the importance of this job and are strongly motivated by the spirit of helping out the university." Area of work, gender and rank within the institution were considered in the selection of members but he noted not every unit is represented. "All members will be asked to take a university-wide perspective."
One of the first questions most of those invited to join a task force asked was about workload. There will be periods of intense work, likely when the prioritization criteria is set and when the actual ranking takes place, he said, but "what we have heard from other universities ... is that the task forces can expect to meet for two to six hours every other week with the same amount of time for preparation." No matter the time commitment, "we expect this to be part of their assigned duties. We're not looking to backfill this time."
Exactly how many programs will be evaluated still remains to be seen, said Fairbairn. "I know it's more than tens but my sense is it's less than thousands." A data team has begun compiling information for the task forces and will be available to respond to their requests. The groups will also continue to have access to the facilitator who "brings things that no one inside the University of Saskatchewan could provide."
There is no set schedule for the groups to report on their work; the only firm date is Nov. 30 when their reports must be complete. And Fairbairn is looking for those reports to be "compelling and action oriented. The link between rankings and budget action is really important."
Fairbairn stressed that TransformUS is program prioritization, not unit prioritization, meaning a unit with several programs could see each one ranked quite differently. And prioritization is "not a question of good or bad," he continued; depending on the criteria used by the task forces, even the most efficient program could end up ranked as a low priority for the university.
The Board of Governors has approved tuition rates for 2013-14.
For 2013-14, undergraduate and graduate tuition rates will rise by an overall average of 4.5 per cent. Tuition level increases will vary by program, but most programs will see an increase of 4.6 per cent or less, including arts, science, education, agriculture and bioresources, kinesiology, business and graduate studies. Further, students at the U of S continue to pay some of the lowest tuition rates when compared to our U15 medical-doctoral peer group.
Tuition rates are reviewed annually by the Board of Governors and set according to three principles: 1) comparability to similar programs at other Canadian U15 medical-doctoral universities; 2) accessibility and affordability for the majority of potential students; and, 3) the quality of our programs, and the need to ensure our students receive a high-quality education.
Based on an expressed interest from our students, the University of Saskatchewan is intending to move towards providing multi-year tuition rates for undergraduate students. We feel this change in approach will provide our students with better knowledge and stability regarding the overall cost of their program, instead of the current practice of annual increases announced every spring. More information will be provided as it becomes available.
While the university is currently facing a set of financial pressures, unlike many of our peer institutions, we have a principle-based process for tuition setting that allows us to adhere to our core values even in the most difficult times. For over a decade now, the U of S has not balanced its budget on the basis of tuition increases. As the university has demonstrated, when we have annual shortfalls in our budget we look elsewhere to solve them, not to tuition fees.
In addition to tuition, students pay a variety of student fees that are used to fund specific student benefits offered as part of a university education. Fees for 2013-14 will be announced in April and be available online at www.usask.ca/tuition.
(Full disclosure: In 2010 and 2011, HESA was contracted to the University of Regina; however, no one at U of R has the faintest idea I’m writing this post).
For data, I used the Statscan/CAUBO Financial Information of Universities, which shows that, over the period 2004/5 to 2010/11, Regina’s operating budget rose 35.6%; during that time, total compensation for Instruction (mainly profs’ wages) went up by 33.7%, while compensation in “Administration” went up by 52.4%.
Presto! Prima facie evidence of bloat, right?
Well, maybe. The problem with the “administration” category of compensation is that it covers a lot of ground. It’s not just VPs offices; it also includes expenditures related to grants and contracts administration, co-op program administration, distance education support, as well as instructional technology and audio visual services (for a full explanation of this category, see here). Increases in spending in those areas probably wouldn’t be seen as bloat by most people. Unfortunately, Statscan does not break down expenditures to this level of detail, so we’ll stick with that 52.4% number – but remember, it comes with an asterisk.
Whilst administrative compensation growth has been higher than that for professors, bear in mind that the two budgets are very different in size. Administrative salaries were 9% of operating budget in 2011; academic salaries were 45%. Growth in academic compensation between 2005 and 2011 was actually greater than the entire administrative compensation budget in 2011. There simply isn’t enough money in administrative compensation to provide much cushion to faculty if (or when) the money runs out.
That’s not to say one shouldn’t try, of course. Had total administrative compensation risen at “just” the rate of academic staff compensation, the university would have another $1.7 million to play with. One can do a lot of good with $1.7 million. But, at the same time, it amounts to only about 1% of the university’s operating budget.
To put it another way, the “excess” spending in administrative compensation over those six years accounts for only 4% of total operating budget growth during that time. Reducing that compensation is likely a necessary part of any university-wide budgetary solution, but anyone who claims it’s anything like a complete solution needs a math lesson. Painful cuts elsewhere are unavoidable.
I would like to start by thanking all members of the campus community who took the time to nominate a peer or submit a self-nomination to participate on one of the two task forces associated with TransformUS. We were fortunate to receive 250 nominations in which 227 individuals were nominated.
I, along with the selection committee of Brett Fairbairn, provost and vice-president academic, Jay Kalra, chair of University Council, Stephen Urquhart, chair of Research, Scholarly and Artistic Work Committee, Hans Michelmann, chair of International Activities Committee, Roy Dobson, chair of Academic Programs Committee, and Greg Fowler, acting vice-president finance and resources (Support Service Transformation Task Force only) were pleased with the response from the campus community. As a result of the collaborative work of the selections committee, two very strong task forces have been struck to conduct the review of academic and support services programs at the University of Saskatchewan.
A number of probing questions—
about rumours, about budget
adjustment initiatives and
even about how students can
help—were at the heart of a Feb.
26 town hall meeting held to
provide an update on the institu-
tion’s financial situation.
The meeting began with
Provost Brett Fairbairn and Greg
Fowler, acting vice-president of
finance and resources, restating
the university’s projected
$44.5-million deficit by 2016
and the goals of the budget
cutting measures—a sustainable
operating budget with the best people and programs possible in
place, and resources focused on
Fairbairn noted the
four-year timeline for trimming
the operating budget gives the
U of S “the time to make the
right decisions. We don’t want to
end up in a repeat cycle of having
to make cuts to our budget.”
Fowler reiterated the need
for changes to the university’s
workforce, its largest single
expense. Some 50 administrative
and support positions have been
eliminated since November, he
said, in units that “were ready to proceed,” but every college and
unit will do workforce planning
before the end of April. Staff
reductions to date will amount
to about $2.4 million in budget
savings by 2016.
Fairbairn also described the
university’s program prioritiza-
tion initiative—called Trans-
formUS—that will see two task
forces spend the year evalu-
ating every program and service
against a set of criteria. Final
rankings will be submitted in a
report to the president by Nov.
30. An implementation plan for
change will follow that will see
increased investment in some
areas, no change, or the elimi-
nation or reduction of programs
The goal of TransformUS,
said Fairbairn, is to save the
university $20-25 million
annually with $5 million of that
earmarked for reinvestment in
high-priority programs. Trans-
formUS, he added, will drive
future workforce planning.
Totaling all of the efforts
made so far, Fowler said about
$5 million in savings have been
realized, about 10 per cent of the
Patti McDougall, vice-
provost teaching and learning,
then chaired a question period,
toggling between online queries,
written questions submitted at
the meeting, questions from
speakers on the floor and from
Twitter. The first asked what or
who caused “this state of affairs,”
which Fairbairn described as a
combination of lower projected
provincial funding, compen-
sation growth, deferred main-
tenance challenges and going
concern pension payments.
Asked from the floor what University Advancement is
contributing to increasing
revenue, the provost acknowl-
edged a conscious investment
in expanding its fundraising
function but compared to other
institutions with well-estab-
lished endowments and funding
sources, “we’re coming late to
much of that work.” Expect to see
a major fundraising campaign in
the next year or two, he said, but
advancement work is “more of a
Barb Daigle, associate vice-
president of human resources,
took the microphone to address
what one questioner described
as the “perceived brutality” of
the U of S lay-off process and
the appearance of people being
“perp-walked out.” Daigle said
no security staff is involved in
layoffs but the university has
hired Meyers Norris Penny tran-
sition workers to assist laid-off
employees, largely “to protect
them (employees) from their
own emotional reaction,” which
in some cases may be strong.
People generally do not
want to react badly in front of
co-workers or their boss, she
said, so not allowing people
to return to their workplace
is common practice. “What
appears to be harsh on the face
of it is really rooted in the best
interests of people.”
Daigle also addressed a
question about compensa-
tion for senior administra-
tors, explaining the university takes the strategic approach of
setting all pay relative to market
salaries in similar positions. “We
don’t increase compensation in
good times and roll it back in
bad times,” she said. Taking a
strategic approach, she went on,
aids the university in its recruit-
ment efforts for senior positions.
A graduate student asked
what more students could do to
assist the university. Fairbairn
expressed the need to continue
to hear the student voice and
encouraged them to submit
questions, comments or sugges-
tions, attend meetings and
participate in opportunities to
share their ideas about priori-
ties. The U of S wants to hear
from “anyone who makes an
investment in post-secondary
He also responded to a
question about tuition being
used to shore up revenues,
assuring the audience the U of S
intends to stick to its practice
of making tuition decisions
based on comparability, access
and affordability, and ensuring
quality. “You’ll notice that the
financial need of the university
is not a criterion on the list.”
Fowler answered a question
about possibly contracting out
non-cost effective services by
saying the board has directed
that all costs be explored. He
added, however, that the univer-
sity remains bound by all collec-
tive agreements and provincial
From "Questions probe budget initiatives," by Colleen MacPherson, On Campus News, Mar. 1, 2013
We want to thank those of you who were able to join us, either in person or online, for today’s financial town hall. For those of you who were unable to attend, you can now view a video version of the town hall in its entirety at www.usask.ca/finances.
At this town hall, we provided an overview of how your ideas are helping guide the initiatives we are developing and implementing in response to our budget challenges, with approximately $5 million in permanent savings by 2016 achieved through initiatives implemented to date. We also reviewed progress on TransformUS and workforce planning, our two biggest initiatives, and opened the floor to questions from the campus community. Attached you will find a handout distributed at the town hall.
Since November, several administrative and academic leaders have been engaged in workforce planning in our collective effort to minimize the projected operating budget deficit of $44.5 million and achieve financial sustainability by 2016.
To date, difficult decisions have been made by administrative and academic leaders. This has resulted in changes in the workforce including the elimination of 50 positions across campus. Our university has high standards for how we treat all members of our community. We have undertaken to manage these reductions in the most compassionate ways possible. We understand it is difficult to accept job loss at the university, which may result in rumours and strong opinions about the process and the treatment of people. Concerns should be shared with a supervisor or manager for follow up or directly with my office (Human Resources).
Several of the administrative and academic units involved in the recent adjustments, were planning for changes prior to workforce planning. This allowed the following units to proceed early with workforce adjustments: Arts and Science – Division of Humanities and Fine Arts (5), Campus Safety (1), Centre for Continuing and Distance Education (1), Consumer Services (7), Corporate Administration (2), College of Dentistry (2), Edwards School of Business (5), Information and Communications Technology (2), Provost’s Office – Institutional Planning and Assessment (2), College of Law (3), University Library (12), College of Nursing (2), and Student and Enrolment Services Division (6). These reductions will result in $2.4 million in annual operating budget savings by 2016 as well as savings from non-operating budgets. Additional adjustments may still occur as these units are at various stages of planning.
Every administrative and academic unit on campus will participate in workforce planning and most will have to reduce their workforce this year.
Many of you have wondered why we are reducing the workforce now. Salaries and benefits consume approximately 75 per cent of our operating budget. The university requires immediate savings as well as long-term savings to meet the current and projected budget challenges. Reducing our workforce now will help us meet our budget targets in 2012-13 and 2013-14 and beyond.
Currently, workforce planning is about reducing and optimizing our workforce for the delivery of current programs and missions. Future prioritization and transformation processes will result in additional changes. Although we are focused on reductions at this time, workforce planning is not just about layoffs. In the longer term, workforce planning will lead to other aspects of people strategies like the recruitment and development of our workforce to meet our changing needs. Workforce planning, in these respects, will become an element of our integrated planning cycle.
Please continue to bring questions and concerns forward to your supervisor or manager. Submit ideas, questions and rumours and find the most up-to-date information on the finances website at www.usask.ca/finances. For employees who need additional support, our Employee Assistance Program is available by calling 966-4300.
Barb Daigle Associate Vice-President, Human Resources
Council approves program prioritization
Nearly every seat in the Neatby Timlin Theatre was occupied Jan. 24 when University Council approved in principle TransformUS, the university’s program prioritization plan to trim between $20-25 million from the operating budget and to re-invest $5 million into academic programs and services.
TransformUS involves the creation of two task forces—one for academic programs and the other for support services and programs—that will set criteria for program and service evaluation across the entire university.
The motion approved by Council specifies that both task forces will include faculty and undergraduate and graduate students. In the original plan for the task forces, students were not excluded from participation, but did not have official seats.
U of S President Ilene Busch-Vishniac said the reason for this was that task force meetings could take four to six hours each week, an amount of time students may not be able to commit. She added that if students wanted to participate actively, then they would be able to do so.
U of S Students’ Union (USSU) President Jared Brown told Council that students will be affected by the prioritization process and should be involved. While concern about the time commitment is appreciated, “as adults we can make that choice on our own,” he said.
Brett Fairbairn, provost and vice-president academic, encouraged Council to approve the plan in principle, meaning that it “support the undertaking of program prioritization, not specific actions.” He said that program prioritization will allow the university to “strategically look at how we allocate and reallocate resources … and must reflect our goals, strategy and priorities.”
If Council does not approve TransformUS, he continued, alternatives could include across-the-board cuts, and hiring freezes such as are occurring at other universities in Canada. TransformUS “is the most transparent and inclusive measure,” Fairbairn said, adding he did not want “issues of how we are doing this getting in the way of doing this.”
Busch-Vishniac, referring to membership on the two task forces, said that no one on the academic task force would be above department head level.
A strong majority of Council passed the motion after it was amended to include student representatives on the task forces.
Nominations to the task forces will be open until Feb. 13 at 12 pm. Membership on the Academic Program Transformation Task Force is open to faculty and both graduate and undergraduate students. Membership on the Support Service Transformation Task Force is open to faculty, staff as well as graduate and undergraduate students. Senior leadership positions will not be appointed to the task forces and self-nominations will be accepted. An online nomination form can be found at usask.ca/finances
From "Council approves program prioritization: Motion amended to include students on task forces," by Kris Foster, On Campus News, Feb 8, 2013
Join us - Financial Town Hall on February 26
We would like to invite the campus community to the fourth in a continuing series of financial town hall meetings being held to address the 2012-16 operating budget challenges. During this town hall we will provide a brief overview of the current state of the operating budget adjustments process and there will also be an opportunity for questions and discussion.
Operating Budget Adjustments Financial Town Hall #4 Tuesday, February 26, 2013 12:30-1:30pm Convocation Hall
As in the past, microphones will be available for those in attendance to ask questions. Or, if you prefer, you can write your question(s) in advance and bring them with you to the event, and we will have a box available at the back of Convocation Hall to collect these. You can also submit questions anonymously through the contact us section of the www.usask.ca/finances website up to Monday, February 25 at noon.
If you are unable to join us in-person, you can watch the town hall live online by going to www.usask.ca/finances. We will also be posting a video copy of the town hall online by March 1, 2013.
We look forward to having you join us to be a part of the discussion.
Brett Fairbairn Provost and Vice-President Academic
Greg Fowler Acting Vice-President Finance and Resources
Nominations now open for TransformUS Academic and Support Service Task Forces
With the aim of continuing to be one of Canada’s most distinguished universities, while addressing financial realities, the University of Saskatchewan is undertaking a program prioritization process called TransformUS. Through this process, every academic program and support service currently offered by the university will be examined simultaneously against a set of criteria to be determined early in the process by task forces in consultation with the campus community, University Council and the Board of Governors.
Over the course of 2013, TransformUS requires the active participation of a group of individuals who are willing to lead this initiative by serving as members of the academic program and support services task forces. The Academic Program Transformation Task Force (APT) will set criteria and review all academic programs offered through the university. The Support Service Transformation Task Force (SST) will set criteria and review the administrative support programs within our academic and administrative units. The results of the work of two task forces will inform decisions on the investment and disinvestment of resources by the appropriate governing bodies at the University of Saskatchewan.
In the interest of securing the best possible candidates for membership to the task forces, nominations of faculty, staff and students are now invited. Individuals will be nominated to the task forces through an open process and selected for the task forces by a team of the president, provost and a few leaders of University Council.
We are seeking nominations for individuals who meet some or all of the following characteristics to serve as members of the academic and support service task forces:
Understands and embraces the teaching, research and engagement missions of the University of Saskatchewan.
Displays competencies such as critical thinking, analytical skills, problem-solving, fair-mindedness and openness to differing viewpoints.
Has earned a high level of credibility as demonstrated by respect of peers, previous leadership experience and/or professional accomplishment.
Demonstrated success as an effective team member.
Known for getting things done and meeting commitments.
Previous experience on a university-wide committee(s) and/or demonstrated commitment to the university through active participation in committees and/or leadership of significant college/unit/school initiatives.
In addition to the above noted characteristics, members of the task forces must adopt an institution-wide perspective, including overcoming personal, departmental and college/unit level considerations. We will strive to select a membership that is representative of the diversity of the institution, including gender, ethnicity, age, stage in career and breadth of university experience.
All members of the campus community, including students, staff, faculty and alumni can submit nominations. Self-nominations will be also be accepted. Please note that no one holding a position above a department head/director level will be appointed to the task forces.
Nomination criteria are as follows:
Academic Task Force (APT)
Nominees/appointees to the APT must be a University of Saskatchewan faculty member, according the definition of the General Academic Assembly in the University of Saskatchewan Act, 1995: “Faculty member means a person who is employed on a full-time basis by the university or an affiliated or federated college and who serves as a professor, associate professor, assistant professor, lecturer, full-time special lecturer, full-time instructor, librarian, or extension specialist” (1995, c.U-6.1, s.2).
At least two students, one undergraduate and one graduate will be appointed to the task force.
Faculty members holding senior leadership positions will not be appointed to the task force
Support Services Task Force (SST)
Nominees/appointees to the SST must be a current employee or faculty member (GAA definition) of the University of Saskatchewan.
At least two students, one undergraduate and one graduate will be appointed to the task force.
Faculty and staff holding senior leadership positions will not be appointed to the task force. Twenty to twenty five individuals will be appointed to each task force. Members of the task force should expect approximately 4 hours of committee work every two weeks in addition to preparation time. All task force members will be required to attend a kick-off meeting on March 5, 2013 from 4-6 pm and two all-day workshops on March 18-20, 2013. Each task force will meet one day on their own and one day together with the other task force.
Please complete the online nomination form to nominate individuals for the task forces. Nominations will close on February 13, 2013 at 12:00 pm. Announcements regarding the task forces will be made in early March. Thank you for your assistance in helping shape the composition of the task forces.
Council approves program prioritization in principle
We are writing to let you know that University Council approved the undertaking of a program prioritization process, in principle, by a strong majority at today's meeting.
Over the course of 2013, two task forces will be responsible for leading this initiative. The Academic Program Transformation Task Force will set criteria and review all academic programs offered through the university. The Support Service Transformation Task Force will set criteria and review the administrative support programs within our academic and administrative units.
The approved motion specifies that the academic task force will include faculty members, undergraduate and graduate students. Individuals will be nominated to the task forces through an open process and members will be appointed in consultation with the leadership of University Council.
The nomination process will start early next week. We ask that you watch your email to ensure you have an opportunity to partake in the nomination process – either through self-nomination or by nominating one of your faculty, student or staff colleagues.
Brett Fairbairn, Provost and Vice-President Academic
Jay Kalra, Chair, University Council
Update on operating budget adjustments
To all faculty, staff and students,
By now we hope all members of our community are aware that our university faces budget challenges.
For several months — and particularly since the budget town hall on 20 November 2012 — we have been talking about two different, large projects that constitute important parts of our operating budget adjustments. One of these projects is workforce planning. The other is program prioritization.
With both projects now underway in the last week, we are writing to provide more information about these projects and about where they fit in the four-year process of ensuring the financial sustainability of our university.
There has been a tremendous amount of comment over the past few days about
the financial state of the University of Saskatchewan and about our plans to
address a significant deficit that we project will reach $44.5 million by 2016.
As a significant part of our community this university is an economic engine
for Saskatoon and Saskatchewan, so change can and does affect a large number of
people. Everyone is entitled to an opinion about what we are doing and why,
however it is very important that such comment be based on fact. My purpose
here is to clarify what seems to be both misinformation and a lack of
understanding of some of our initiatives as we work toward a position of
long-term financial sustainability.
At the heart of every decision that has been made so far, and those yet to
come, is a desire to make this university better today than it was yesterday,
and better tomorrow than it is today. As a member of Canada’s leading research
universities, the U15, we have tremendous potential. Our third integrated plan
provides a roadmap to help us achieve our potential in areas such as research
intensiveness and Aboriginal engagement. Our goal is to be the best at what we
do - education, discovery and outreach. To achieve that goal requires very
strategic and often difficult choices about where we spend our limited
On the issue of our workforce, the university has an operating budget that
is 75 per cent salaries and benefits. It is simply not possible to deal with a
multi-million-dollar deficit without making changes to our workforce. Those
changes will be made respectfully and strategically. That means that in the
end, every person employed by the University of Saskatchewan will be doing work
that is efficient, effective and very clearly focused on our mandate to provide
quality education, do significant research and share what we have with others.
We will also shine the magnifying glass on all of our activities, both
academic and administrative, in a process called program prioritization. No
stone will go unturned in our effort to figure out what we are doing best to
support our mandate, and what we can no longer afford to do because it does not
support our mandate. This institution has enormous assets and enormous
potential that must be shaped and directed for us to reach the bar we have set
for ourselves - to be a world-class institution located right here in
Saskatchewan. The faculty of the University of Saskatchewan will fundamentally
shape program prioritization.
It is important for everyone to understand that as we go through this budget
adjustment process, the University of Saskatchewan cannot and will not stand
still. We will continue to hire the best people we can. We will continue to
focus resources on collectively identified priorities. We will continue to do
what we need to do to increase the value of the degrees we confer and to build
the reputation of our university. The world of post-secondary education is
a competitive one, and only through strategic investment in our strengths and
realignment of our activities can we accomplish what we have set out to
As I said earlier, there are decisions that have already been made, and
others that will be made over the next months and even years, and the
University of Saskatchewan will look different at the end of it all. There will
be some people unhappy with our decisions, but I see a very bright future.
Ilene Busch-Vishniac, President
Workforce Planning project update
To all faculty and staff:
The following is an update on the first phase of the university’s Workforce Planning project.
With 75% of our operating budget allotted to salaries and benefits, and a projected $44.5 million deficit over the next three years, it has been clear for some time that jobs will be lost. As a publicly funded institution, the university must sustain its financial position and we do this by ensuring projected expenses remain in line with projected revenues.
Beginning today and over the next three weeks, approximately 40 employees will receive notice, with more job loss expected in phases over the coming months. This will be a difficult time for many and we are committed to ensuring appropriate support for individuals affected by job loss. With this in mind, the university has invested in comprehensive transition services to ensure individual support for every staff member losing employment. We have also increased support capacity for those remaining in the workplace. All of this requires the layoffs to occur over a period of time.
While job loss is a normal part of the university's business, what is unusual now is that our current financial situation requires a new strategic, long-term approach to our overall workforce complement. College and administrative leaders are making these difficult decisions strategically, rather than through across-the-board cuts, which are not effective in the long term as they don’t result in a workforce that is focused in the right areas. To support this process, the university has adopted a strategic workforce planning model. In the long-term, this will help us remain sustainable, while ensuring the right people with the right knowledge, skills and experience are in the right positions to focus on the university’s goals.
Through this time of transformation, unfounded rumours may be passed around. If you are uncertain about something you have heard, talk to your supervisor or submit and learn more about the rumours we’ve heard so far online at http://www.usask.ca/finances/resources/rumourmill.php.
I encourage you to take care of yourselves and each other, and for anyone who would like additional support, please take advantage of the exceptional services of our Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Access to information and services is available online through PAWS or by calling 966-4300.
If you have questions or concerns related to workforce planning, please contact my office at 966-6285 or email email@example.com.
Barb Daigle Associate Vice-President, Human Resources
University officials are finalizing agreements with service providers for a seamless online tool to manage travel bookings and expense claims, a replacement for the current process that the campus community rated through SPEP as having a “very high pain point.”
Laura Kennedy, associate vice-president of financial services, said the pain results from the mountain of paperwork and manual handling required, across the university, to create and track authority to travel and claims documents. In addition, processes are not as efficient as they could be because of the number of vendors and payment methods.
For example, staff can book travel on a university credit card through any one of 13 university-recognized agents but can also book travel on their own credit card through a variety of other agents. As a result, it is difficult for the university to collect detailed information from across the institution on what exactly is being spent on airfare, hotel accommodation and other travel expenses with particular vendors.
“For the university, the value of having that detail is being able to leverage our total spending and improve our negotiating power with suppliers,” she said. “We will certainly get more favourable pricing and better discounts by consolidating our buying power, and we will also be able to take advantage of rebates from airlines.”
In 2011-12, travel expenses for university employees totalled $16.3 million.
The need for improving the travel and expense system was identified early on in the Service and Process Enhancement Project (SPEP). That analysis led to the recommendation of a single online tool integrated with the institution’s financial system to create cost efficiencies and administrative improvements.
Last March, a request for proposal was issued. Subsequent evaluation of various tools and consultation with the university community resulted in the selection of two vendors – Concur Technologies Inc. for online booking and expense management tools and Uniglobe Beacon Travel Ltd. (Calgary) in partnership with Uniglobe Carefree Travel Group (Saskatoon) for travel management services, said Kennedy.
Once the system is in place, travellers will be able to manage their full travel itinerary, including air travel, ground transportation and lodging, and use the fully automated expense reporting system and pre- and post-trip authorization. “Everything will be captured in one place,” said Kennedy, “to enable most travel information to flow automatically into the financial system.”
Initial implementation of the system is expected to cost $450,000, with $200,000 of that funded from the operating budget. There is an estimated incremental annual operating cost of $100,000, said Kennedy, but savings through improved rates on airfare, hotels and booking fee charges are expected to be $700,000 per year. Those savings, Kennedy added, “will be returned automatically to whichever department or unit booked the travel.”
It will take time to build a system tailored to university processes, and time to familiarize travellers with its use. Implementation of the system will start with a pilot group of frequent travellers who will be early users of the new system, and a full administrative unit and a college will be added to the pilot group before the system is rolled out to the rest of the campus community, likely by April 2014. Training will be provided along the way and employee feedback will be reviewed with an eye to continuous improvement, she said.
From "Eliminating travel ‘pain point’ – Online tool improves booking, expense processes," by Colleen MacPherson, On Campus News, Jan 11, 2013
President announces program prioritization initiative, TransformUS
Fellow Members of the University of Saskatchewan Community:
You are aware that the University of Saskatchewan is facing a significant financial challenge between now and 2016. I am writing today to share with you some important steps we will take as a university community to ensure that the University of Saskatchewan will thrive and maintain its path as one of Canada’s most distinguished universities. To do so, we need urgently to address our financial challenge so that we have the financial resources to achieve our goals sustainably in the future. While we have built a robust and effective planning and resource management process, the extent of our resources is not sufficient to maintain the breadth of our programming and activity. Everyone within our community—students, faculty, staff, board members, alumni, friends and community members—is affected by our current situation. I am signaling today that it is now time to undertake a comprehensive effort to examine the way in which our resources are being invested.
With the vision of continuing to be one of Canada’s most distinguished universities, I have asked Brett Fairbairn, Provost and Vice-President Academic, and Greg Fowler, Acting Vice-President Finance and Resources, to serve as co-champions of a process through which every academic program and administrative service currently offered by our university will be examined simultaneously to assess its contributions to our overall success. This will be done in order to create a set of academic and administrative program and service priorities in which the university will invest greater resources, as well as academic and administrative program and service priorities from which resources will be withdrawn.
Our approach to this effort will be modeled on the process described in Prioritizing Academic Programs and Services (2010) by Robert C. Dickeson, and adapted to meet our university’s specific needs. Copies of this book are available in the University Library or for purchase in the University Bookstore or online. Our university’s prioritization process begins with this letter and with the establishment of two task forces described below, and will conclude with the submission of a report consisting of prioritization rankings from the two task forces by November 30, 2013.
Let me be clear from the outset: our primary motivation in introducing this new process is cost-cutting. This means that some valuable academic and support programs and administrative services will be lost through this initiative in order to ensure the university as a whole has the resources it needs to thrive and grow. In so doing, we will also need to sequester sufficient resources so that, over a multi-year period, we are able to shift resources toward academic programs, academic support programs and administrative services that are performing exceptionally well or that we must retain and that would perform significantly better with a modest infusion of resources. Our overall target for this exercise is $20 – 25 million. Of this, we expect that a minimum of $5 million will be available, following the ranking process, for new investments in the highest-ranking academic programs and administrative services. Flowing from the Dickeson model and adapted to our university, programs will be ranked in four or five categories, such as ‘maintain with enhanced resources’, ‘maintain with existing resources’, ‘maintain with reduced resources’, ‘transform with either increased or reduced resources’, or ‘eliminate, merge or close’. The task forces will provide the categorization and, informed by their work, we will utilize our existing governing bodies to make resulting decisions, both budgetary and academic. All of this will be essential if we are to ensure our ongoing financial sustainability.
The prioritization process, titled TransformUS, will be carried out by a broadly representative and diverse group of participants from throughout the University of Saskatchewan. Two task forces will be created: one to examine academic programs (Academic Program Transformation - APT) and another to examine administrative services and academic support programs (Support Service Transformation – SST). We are currently considering options regarding the nomination process to the task forces, including a model which has worked well at other universities and which provides for a broadly-based nomination process with selection by the President. I can confirm currently that the Academic Program Transformation Task Force will be comprised of esteemed members of our faculty drawn from University Council, its committees and faculty-at-large. The Support Service Transformation Task Force will be comprised of faculty and administrative managers and staff. While students will not be included as members of the task forces because of the amount of work entailed and the significant impact this activity would have on their studies, both task forces will be charged with devising appropriate and effective mechanisms for student input and participation in the prioritization process.
Although we will seek to ensure that the task force participants bring perspectives from all sectors of the institution, they will not be representing any individual unit or constituency. Instead, they will be asked to adopt a “university-wide perspective” and to focus on what is in the best interests of the whole university, not its individual constituent parts.
Both task forces will receive administrative and logistical support from the office of Institutional Planning and Assessment (IPA) as well as a support group staffed with representatives from IPA, Financial Services Division (FSD), Communications, Human Resources, and Information Strategy and Analytics (ISA). Additionally, they may obtain advice from external experts, such as Larry Goldstein, president of Campus Strategies, LLC, who may serve consultants to assist with this process.
Although the specific assessment criteria and weighting will be developed by the respective task forces, I will request that they adhere to two principles in carrying out their responsibilities.
The criteria must be holistic and take into consideration the full gamut of institutional assessment factors including qualitative and quantitative, financial and non-financial, and any other relevant measures of performance.
The criteria must result in a fair assessment of all academic programs and administrative service and academic support programs and their selection and weighting must ensure that no individual programs or services are unfairly treated in the process.
Once the criteria have been tentatively developed by the task forces, they will be shared broadly within the university community for comment and with University Council for endorsement.
It is important to note that both task forces are recommending rather than decision-making entities. They will prepare and submit a final report containing their rankings, which will be made publicly available upon its completion, to my office by November 30, 2013 at the very latest. I anticipate that the report will group all of the programs and services into categories whereby the highest-ranked programs will be eligible for increased investments expected to enhance their overall contributions to the University of Saskatchewan’s stakeholders. Conversely, the lowest-ranked programs will be candidates for elimination or merger. Depending on the number of categories established by the task forces, other programs will be assigned to categories covering program transformation, continuation without significant change in resources, and continuation with reduced resources.
Following receipt of the report from the task forces, there will be a formal process for the review of the final report. This process will involve University Council and the Board of Governors who will both receive the report. On behalf of the university’s leadership, the Provost’s Committee on Integrated Planning (PCIP) will develop an action plan and the development of an implementation timetable. All laws, contracts, collective agreements and University of Saskatchewan policies will be adhered to during the implementation phase following the completion of the assessment process.
I want to assure you that, although this is the first official communication on this subject, it will not be the last. I will rely on the co-champions to keep TransformUS in the forefront of the University of Saskatchewan community via regular updates and periodic Q&A sessions. It is my expectation that this process will be undertaken in an open and transparent manner. This means that, with the exception of the deliberations regarding individual programs and the other inner workings of the task forces, all facets of the process will be shared widely and updated regularly.
Finally, I appreciate that this is a major undertaking of our university at a time when it is critically important that we make choices. Because of the significant time invested by the university community in this process, it will be important to curtail some initiatives and activities which may distract from this purpose. I thank all of you for your time and your cooperation as we implement this important process at the University of Saskatchewan.
Ilene Busch-Vishniac, President
Administrative commons creates efficiencies for the division
A complete re-organization of
administrative activities in the College of Arts and Science’s Division of
Humanities and Fine Arts is expected to provide better co-ordination of
services but also focused expertise in specific areas.
working toward what I’ve been referring to as an administrative commons,” said
David Parkinson, vice-dean of humanities and fine arts. “The key will be that
each program and department will receive service and support from the full
re-organization is in response to the need for the university to trim its
operating budget significantly over the next four years. To make the change, the
division terminated five employees on Nov. 27 and will group the remaining 10
support personnel in a central location on the fifth floor of the Arts Tower.
Parkinson said four additional staff members will eventually be included in the
commons to provide support for research facilitation and outreach and
engagement activities. Clerical and reception staff will remain in place in
division operations in the John Mitchell, Murray and Education Buildings.
commons will operate on a triage model, he said, handling administrative
support for the entire division. There will also be specialization by certain
staff in areas like finance and budget, and graduate program services. “We want
to ensure that expertise previously located locally can be provided across the
full array of our programs.” But there will also be extensive cross training because
“when all the lights shine on the old fashioned switchboard, we have to have
people to handle that work in a timely way. The goal is to provide a
satisfactory level of services – and I mean that in the most positive and
careful way – by January” when the second academic term of the year begins.
Division of Humanities and Fine Arts includes eight departments, some 15
programs, over 700 declared majors and 95 faculty members, and it provides
about 15,000 three-credit-unit equivalents every fall and winter term.
said increased workload for staff in the administrative commons is a concern
“and a very, very real challenge … but we’re identifying ways of delegating
tasks further into the administrative commons” to ensure efficient use of people’s
division was assisted in its re-organization by college staff and central human
resource expertise, he said. “This is something you do not want to try alone.”
The change was also guided by clear principles and procedures. Parkinson acknowledged
these situations create “considerable uncertainty and doubt in people’s minds …
so it is vitally important to communicate as is proper, as is requested and as
is requisite with the affected people. Communication is absolutely key.”
added he has been “bowled over” by the commitment and humanity of faculty,
staff and students throughout the college. “They are all very committed to the
success, identity and future of the departments and programs they represent.”
From "Administrative commons creates efficiencies for the division," by Colleen MacPherson, On Campus News, Dec. 7, 2012
Kenderdine questions dominate town hall
The university’s decision to suspend operations at the Kenderdine campus at Emma Lake for the next three years dominated discussion at the Nov. 20 open meeting in Convocation Hall.
Faculty members, artists and a large contingent of biology students were on hand to ask questions and express their concerns about the closure, which was announced Nov. 15. Suspending activity at the aging facility, which needs at least $3 million of work to bring it up to health and safety standards, will mean the loss of two positions at the university and operational savings of about $500,000 between now and 2016.
The town hall meeting was one in a series of information sessions designed to provide the campus community with updates on the university’s financial situation. Led by Provost and Vice-President Academic Brett Fairbairn and Greg Fowler, acting vice-president of finance and resources, the hour-long meeting included a short presentation and then a question and answer period. Audience members were provided with cards on which to write comments and were also invited to speak from the floor.
To begin, Fowler outlined the current financial situation, which includes a projected gap between revenues and expenses of $44.5 million annually by 2016 if the university takes no action. This represents 8.5 per cent of the institution’s operating budget. There is also a $15.5 million deficit projected for this year.
So far, the university has made $2.5 million in permanent budget reductions, he said, and $7 million in one-time cuts but “there is much more to do this year” with the rest of the annual deficit expected to be addressed by the end of the year.
Fairbairn outlined the principles that govern the budget adjustment efforts, principles designed to ensure decisions about budget and the workforce are strategic, comprehensive and sustainable. Fowler described the three projects already underway: workforce planning; gathering $20 million from central and college sources for one-time transition funding; and procurement process improvements.
Fowler acknowledged that workforce planning is causing anxiety but “we must … improve our organizational structures to gain efficiency and reduce duplication,” a process that will take place over the next four years. In addition to these projects, Fairbairn said the university is also exploring a process for program prioritization that will align resources with institutional priorities. He added the Board of Governors has provided direction that “no stone go unturned.”
In the question period, audience members expressed concern about maintaining the cultural and heritage integrity of the Kenderdine site, including Fairy Island, home of a cabin used by Saskatchewan artist Ernest Lindner. Originally called the Emma Lake Art Camp, the property has been in use since 1935 during summer months for artists’ retreats and more recently, for environmental learning opportunities for students.
Both Fairbairn and Fowler reiterated the decision to halt activities at the seasonal campus was difficult but necessary as the university does not have the capital to invest in the property. They assured audience members the university will continue to monitor the site and do necessary maintenance to prevent further deterioration.
Fairbairn pointed out the closure was announced early enough to allow those planning on using the site for programs and courses to find alternatives for next summer.
Fowler and Fairbairn also fielded questions about the university’s overall financial situation, including why the $44.5-million deficit was underestimated. Fairbairn explained that the institution’s four-year budget planning process anticipated growth of about four per cent annually in its provincial operating grant until last spring. Then, when the grant was increased by only 2.1 per cent, grant increase projections were revised downward to reflect a new reality across the country in postsecondary funding.
“You could argue that we should have seen the writing on the wall,” he said, but even a two per cent increase “may in fact be desirable … relative to what’s going on in other provinces.”
Asked if the university was looking to increase revenue other than raising tuition, Fowler said there is an information item being prepared for the Board of Governors about potential development of parts of the almost 1,000 acres of land the university owns within the city limits. The plan relates to Vision 2057, a long-term development project, but it will have only a minor effect by the end of the four-year budget adjustment period.
Two questions about privatizing services on campus were answered with a firm commitment that such action is not being considered and would contravene labour law and the university’s values.
From "Kenderdine questions dominate town hall," by Colleen MacPherson, On Campus News, Nov. 23, 2012
Procurement project aims to consolidate systems
Untangling the “spaghetti mess” of how goods and services are purchased across campus has the potential to create significant savings in both dollars and people time, but it is one of the circumstances where the U of S will have to spend money in order to save money.
Gwen Miller, a financial analyst in the Financial Services Division who has spent the past year examining current procurement processes, said buying takes place “in a tremendously complex environment that depends on what you’re buying, how much it costs, who you’re buying it from and even who you work for. We really have six different procurement systems … because colleges or units feel they have their own particular needs and have developed their own system. It’s not unique to the U of S; it’s a university-type culture but as a result, we have no detailed picture of what we’re buying at what cost.”
Procurement was initially identified as an area of focus when the university began the Service and Process Enhancement Project (SPEP) in 2010. That project has since become part of the effort to trim the university’s operating budget by $44.5 million. When SPEP began, consultants Pr icewat e rhous eCooper s estimated that streamlining the procurement system could save $2.5-4 million annually, a figure Miller believes is in the ballpark.
With colleges and units handling purchasing through various and unconnected systems, Miller said the university can only determine how much it spends annually with each of its 18,000 vendors “but we don’t necessarily know how much of a specific item we bought across the university. Because the systems are unconnected, we can’t mine them for that information.” And because various entities are making purchases independently, they may be paying different prices for the same goods or services.
“It’s concerning,” said Miller, “but it’s only part of the picture.”
That other part is that last spring, the provincial auditor directed the university to tighten its internal controls on purchasing, she explained. As a result, standing orders for purchases were eliminated and purchases are being made using purchase cards (PCards) and standard purchase orders. “But that has created a tremendous burden for people” in terms of time spent on paperwork. It is hard to attach a dollar value to people’s time, she said, but “if streamlining the system can save a researcher time that she or he would have spent reconciling a PCard statement, I think that’s valuable.”
Miller pointed out the university’s integrated plan calls for effective stewardship of institutional resources, and that government and research funding agencies “want value for money.”
With the problems identified, Miller’s efforts have turned to finding a software solution that will connect procurement seamlessly across campus. She said she will meet with college and unit representatives to document processes, do some measurements, and ask for suggestions about what improvements can be made. “Those comments will help us find the right software.”
Miller is building the business case to show that investment in a new system— up to $500,000 per year—will realize significant savings. A proposal is expected to be ready for consideration by the Provost’s Committee on Integrated Planning and the Board of Governors by March.
Any change to the procurement process “will touch a lot of people,” particularly the 1,000 current PCard users, she said, but the real benefit comes in what Miller called strategic sourcing – using the university’s massive buying power to get the best possible price from vendors. She used lab supplies as an example.
Last year, the university spent about $9 million on lab supplies from 1,533 different vendors. “We know there’s a high markup on lab supplies so if we can use a competitive bid and say that we’re going to spend $9 million with the winner this year, we can then negotiate a great discount. We understand that everybody on campus wants to do their own thing but we really need to work together. When we do that, we can be stronger.”
In addition to using group buying to get the best pricing, a procurement software system will ease the paperwork and time burden. “It will be almost like online shopping but with direction to our preferred vendors and our pricing.” Users will log in and create an electronic requisition, which can then be sent electronically for approval. The information from the requisition flows automatically into a purchase order, and the vendor sends an electronic invoice. Once the purchaser confirms receipt of the goods, the vendor is paid. “There’s no reconciliation because it’s done as the process unfolds,” explained Miller. “That eliminates all this chasing of paper and, as a bonus, it’s sustainable.”
Miller stressed that procurement should not simply be the concern of PCard holders or financial analysts. “Everybody on campus either buys or consumes goods and services. Other than salaries, this is where the university’s money goes.”
From "Procuring savings," by Colleen MacPherson, On Campus News, Nov. 23, 2012
Reminder: Financial town hall tomorrow at noon
Members of the University of Saskatchewan community,
We encourage you to attend the town hall tomorrow, Tuesday, November 20, in Convocation Hall from 12 pm – 1 pm. This town hall will be the third in a continuing series of financial town hall meetings being held to address the 2012-16 operating budget challenges. During this town hall we will provide you with an update on the university’s finances and there will also be an opportunity for questions and discussion.
If you are unable to join us in-person, you can watch the town hall live online by going to www.usask.ca/finances. We will also be posting a video copy of the town hall online by November 23, 2012.
We look forward to having you join us to be a part of the discussion.
Brett Fairbairn Provost and Vice-President Academic
Greg Fowler Acting Vice-President Finance and Resources
Operational Budget Adjustments Update #4: Emma Lake Kenderdine Campus
Members of the University of Saskatchewan community,
We are writing to advise you of the University of Saskatchewan’s decision to suspend the activities of the Emma Lake Kenderdine Campus effective immediately through to 2016.
This decision, while difficult, was necessary in a time of budget restraint. In addition to saving the university $500,000 in operating expenses over 3 years, a significant capital investment in the millions of dollars would need to be made to bring the facility up to standards, money which the university simply does not have at this time. The future of the Emma Lake Kenderdine Campus will be re-examined over the next few years.
The Emma Lake Kenderdine Campus had about 200 U of S students attend parts of courses in summer 2012, and offered experiential learning opportunities in courses such as biology, soil sciences, drama, art and art history, and land use and environmental studies. Additional non-credit courses such as wilderness and remote first aid certification, canoe tripping, photography, painting and camps have been previously offered. The campus has been utilized as an experiential learning site for courses which have been based at the university’s main campus in Saskatoon.
We know that there will be implications for students, faculty, staff and members of the community, which we are in the process of addressing. We continue to be committed to offering high-quality educational programs to our students. Members of the campus community are encouraged to send any questions they have about the Emma Lake Kenderdine Campus to firstname.lastname@example.org, or you may choose to bring your questions to the financial town hall on November 20 at 12 pm in Convocation Hall.
Brett Fairbairn Provost and Vice-President Academic
Greg Fowler Acting Vice-President Finance and Resources
People attending the Nov. 20 town hall meeting about university finances should not expect any big announcements but rather another in the series of updates on the operating budget adjustment project.
Both Brett Fairbairn, provost and vice-president academic, and Acting Vice-President Finance and Resources Greg Fowler will be on hand at the noon meeting in Convocation Hall but according to Fairbairn, the agenda will be largely set by the audience.
“There will be comments from Greg and me to set the context,” he said, “but we’re hoping to actually have most of the time to address concerns, issues and questions that people in the audience will raise and ask us to respond to.”
Several such meetings have been held since the U of S announced it needs to cut $44.5 million per year from its annual operating budget by 2016. Fairbairn stressed that the adjustment goal will be reached through a number of initiatives over four years. In addition to the budget adjustment projects already underway—workforce planning, consideration of college and unit contingency funds, and a revamping of procurement processes— the steering committee also continues to evaluate ideas for reducing expenses or increasing revenue submitted by university community members, he said.
“Part of what that means is that as we’re being deliberate about choosing what to do, what to stop doing and what to do less of, we will also be looking to the university to keep doing new things, to take advantage of opportunities, to invest in new activities. I know that is a less simple message than simply cutting things,” he continued, “and it’s part of the reason we want to have regular communication, including town halls, to listen and hear from people.”
The provost places a great deal of value on face-to-face meetings like town halls. They are opportunities for transparency and accountability, he said, and also allow for the kind of two-way dialogue that is not always possible or practical with emails or memos.
That dialogue, he said, should even include frank discussion of the rumours circulating through the community. “As a historian, rumours fascinate me because they’re clues to people’s hopes and fears, to how they think. Occasionally, rumours may even be accurate. One of the things I would like to see is that we actually bring rumours out in the open where we can deal with them and respond to them. It’s one thing that they circulate … but I think it is actually really good to say something about what’s accurate, what’s not and what has nothing to do with what’s going on.”
From "Audience questions on town hall agenda," by Colleen MacPherson, On Campus News, Nov. 9, 2012
Operational Budget Adjustments - Advice and Expectations
Members of the University of
We are writing to you today to provide an
update on the budget adjustment process that is underway. As we
described in our September 2012 open letter to the campus community, we are working to
prevent a projected operating deficit
of $44.5 million per year by 2016.
date, within this
fiscal year, we have made permanent expense reductions of $2.5 million to help reduce this deficit.
Most of our work so
far has focused on reducing administrative expenditures. We are
looking at implementing Lean methodology for process and quality improvements and at increased efficiencies, such
as the work currently underway to
streamline our printing services. Pilot initiatives include reviewing our procurement processes and
workforce planning. Workforce planning will
at the university align with the priorities articulated through three cycles of integrated planning.
Because of the scope of the challenge and the size of our salary budget, we know jobs will be lost.
We know this
is difficult news to hear. While no decisions have been made about specific positions, we can tell
across the board cuts will not be the primary methodology utilized to address the challenge;
there will be no across the board, voluntary,
early retirement packages; and
there will be no hiring freezes.
More work will be required to balance our
coming months. Because many decisions
have not yet been made, we understand there is considerable uncertainty and anxiety right now. Many
of you have asked us what all
this means for you. Our advice
comes down to three things:
1. Stay informed. For the most current
information on university finances, read the financial
through On Campus News and
On Campus Now, and visit
to attend the financial
hall on November 20, 12:00 noon – 1:00 in Convocation Hall and ask questions or watch
it online through live streaming.
While we will not have all
the answers, it is important we have the opportunity as a campus community to have an open discussion.
2. Offer ideas and suggestions. What can we stop doing now or
a year or
two to focus on
the essential? Send your
ideas and suggestions to
email@example.com. Many of you have already
submitted innovative ideas. Every idea you send is taken
seriously and carefully considered so please keep your ideas coming.
3. Exercise prudence in relation to university operating costs. Keep moving forward, keep supporting key functions and keep taking advantage of important opportunities. Be cautious
about expenditures and long-term commitments. Be collaborative since isolated decisions that
one unit or
activity and worse for another, or that
result in duplication of functions, will make us
Our university has chosen an approach of deliberate, iterative and permanent change.
decisions will be based
evidence and analysis
beyond simple financial expediency.
means that our
budget challenges will be addressed by a variety of measures over
four-year period, not by any one decision or announcement. And permanent
means that we will not undertake temporary
or formulaic measures, rather that we will change what we do and how we do it to
work within our
means in a sustainable manner.
Our expectation is that
the University of
Saskatchewan will become an institution that
does fewer things and does them more simply. With deliberate and strategic choices,
will be stronger in what we do
direct our available resources to our priorities.
Although we are looking at ways to reduce our expenses, our ambition as
a university has not changed
we are determined
that it will not change. We aim to be one of
the most distinguished
universities in Canada
and the world. To get there, we must prioritize more clearly based on our mandate of teaching, research and service, and strengthen our
the areas we have identified
together as the most important in
the Third Integrated Plan.
appreciate your ongoing support and involvement.
Brett Fairbairn Provost and Vice-President Academic
Greg Fowler Acting Vice-President, Finance and Resources
2013-14 Operations Forecast presented to Saskatchewan government
The operations forecast from the University of Saskatchewan for 2013-14 embraces the cold, hard reality of declining post-secondary funding in Canada but also stresses the value of investing in university education.
The forecast, prepared for the provincial government in advance of its budget deliberations, assumes an increase in the university’s annual operating grant of just two per cent or $5.8 million next year, plus a 3.2 per cent increase for specific initiative funding. According to Ginger Appel, director of budget strategy and planning in Institutional Planning and Assessment, gone are the days of grant increases north of five per cent.
“In our ongoing discussions with the Ministry of Advanced Education, it’s been made clear that a grant increase of more than a two per cent is highly unlikely so instead of asking for more, we are being very realistic in our expectation,” said Appel. “At the other end of that reality, of course, is that a two-per-cent increase in the grant will leave us with a projected deficit for 2013-14 of just over $16 million which we will have to address through adjustments to our operations.”
It would take a total provincial funding increase of 11.1 per cent in 2013-14 to balance the university’s budget.
While recognizing that the grant increase may be only two per cent, university officials make the point in the forecast that while university education benefits individuals in terms of higher earnings and rates of employment, it also serves to boost economic growth, innovation and tax revenues for the province. “The point we want to make quite strongly to the government is that it needs to consider the return on investment in post-secondary education when it thinks about the economic future of the province,” said Appel.
A summary of the university’s funding request to government includes the grant increase and an additional $26.4 million for targeted initiatives. These include previous commitments related to increasing the number of seats in the College of Medicine, expansion of the nursing program, an academic renal transplant program, library outreach, various other programs and operating costs for Health Sciences.
Looking at other funding sources for 2013-14, the forecast document projects tuition will increase four to five per cent at the U of S, with the average undergraduate rate going up by about five per cent and tuition for graduate students projected to increase by about 3.5 per cent. Appel pointed out the total revenue increase is a combination of higher rates and more students; enrolment is expected to climb by 0.8 per cent in 2013-14.
She added that tuition rates “relate directly to the experience we’re able to offer our students and are never set to deal with our short-term needs. In other words, we don’t balance the books on the backs of students.”
In terms of capital priorities for 2013-14, the university is requesting a cash grant of $63.4 million: $5.5 million for Health Sciences facilities; $3.5 million for health sciences space in Regina; $25 million for the RenewUs program; $14.4 million for ongoing capital renewal; and about $15 million for principal and interest repayment.
Appel explained that the $15 million for principal and interest results from the province granting the university permission to borrow to fund its capital projects last year. The result was additional capital debt of $94.8 million on the university’s books. “This puts our debt at a level that’s far higher than our peers and just barely within the limit allowed by our own policy,” she said. “It also makes it more difficult for us to borrow if we want to take advantage of an opportunity that arises.”
The operations forecast also outlines for the government the university’s strategy to address its deficit, both in the short and long term. To cut $44.5 million, or 8.5 per cent, from its operating budget by 2016, the university will examine all aspects of its operation, “find efficiencies, narrow the range of what we do, and reduce work by eliminating lowest-priority activities,” said the document. “In spite of the rigor of our approach, reduction of 8.5 per cent will mean difficult choices and loss of programs and services.”
The complete operations forecast for 2013-14 can be found online.
From "Recognizing funding realities," by Colleen MacPherson, On Campus News, Oct. 26, 2012
Financial Town Hall - November 20, 2012
U of S community,
We would like to invite you to attend the third in a continuing series of Financial Town Hall meetings being held to address the 2012-16 operating budget challenges. This town hall will focus on a routine update and provide opportunities for discussion and dialogue with the provost and the acting vice-president finance and resources.
Financial Town Hall: Operating budget adjustments update Tuesday, November 20, 2012 12 pm – 1 pm Convocation Hall, Peter MacKinnon Building
Please watch your inbox and www.usask.ca/finances for updates leading up to the town hall. We hope you will join us to be a part of the discussion.
Brett Fairbairn Provost and Vice-President Academic
Greg Fowler Acting Vice-President Finance and Resources
Workforce planning explained
On Campus News sat down with U of S AVP Human Resources, Barb Daigle, to talk about workforce planning.
Workforce Planning Update
The University of Saskatchewan is taking a close look at jobs across its operation to ensure it has the right people doing the right work to help the institution meet its strategic goals.
Describing what is called workforce planning, Barb Daigle, associate vice-president of human resources, said it is a practice used by many organizations to evaluate “what the need is for each job, and what jobs actually exist.” It involves looking at existing positions and how each contributes to the mission of the institution, as well as what workforce will be required in the future, “and figuring out how to get from one to the other.”
Workforce planning has already started at the U of S, she said, through “quiet consultation” with college deans and administrative leaders. Those discussions will continue until the end of the month when a model will be put in place to guide decisions about which jobs stay, which go and which change. Daigle said that process is expected to continue until April 2013.
Driving the evaluation process is the university’s projected operating deficit situation. “If you remove $44.5 million from a budget where 70 per cent of the expenses are salaries and benefits, there will be adjustments to the workforce,” Daigle said. “Before you fix the problem, you have to face the problem. Our workforce will look quite different at the end of this four-year planning period.”
But even without a deficit challenge, “this is something we should be doing anyway” before approving new positions or filling vacant ones, she said. The university has honed its priorities through three integrated planning cycles; the logical next step is to look at “how each job contributes to achieving those goals, and make adjustments where necessary.” She cited the example of the university’s 74 academic department heads that have varying levels of administrative support “but we’ve never had a plan to look at that holistically. Best practice is continual review and continual adjustment.”
Daigle said there are campus units already using an informal workforce planning process so implementing a more formal model will be easier for some than others “but this is change. It’s new and people need to be open about doing work differently.”
Part of the process, she continued, is to teach leaders how to do workforce planning on an ongoing basis as best practice and as a way to support the university’s commitment to recruiting and retaining top quality faculty and staff.
From "Reshaping the workforce," by Colleen MacPherson, On Campus News, Oct. 12, 2012
University finance officials are looking to recover some of the millions of dollars that have accumulated over the years in college and unit contingency funds in order to help the institution cover the one-time costs associated with reducing its operating budget.
“You can think of them as college or unit savings accounts,” said Laura Kennedy, associate vice-president of financial service and university controller, describing the contingency funds. “Any operating surplus would go into the fund as would, for example, salary savings from a college having a vacant position.” But unlike many other universities, the U of S has no recovery policy that would allow it to “take part or all of the unspent monies back at the end of the year.”
Kennedy said that as of April 30 this year, the total amount of money being held in college and unit contingency funds was $76.2 million. By comparison, the Board of Governors’ operating reserve currently sits at about $18 million. The board is required by policy to keep between one and four per cent of its total operating budget in reserve and $18 million “is at the top end of that range.” Kennedy added the distribution of contingency funds is quite variable and there are some colleges and units with small deficits rather than contingencies.
Recovering the accumulated contingencies has become necessary because the university has few options for finding the one-time or transition funding it needs to make the required permanent reductions to its operating expenses, said Kennedy. A total of $20 million is required to achieve the goal of cutting $44.5 million annually from the operating budget by 2016. Explaining one-time funding and how new expenditures can generate on-going savings, she said the university might, for example, “want to pay for an IT project today that will save salaries in the long run, or do renovations to a room in order to accommodate larger classes.”
The board has authorized the use of $10 million from its operating reserve for one-time funding, she added, “but we can’t clean that account out.”
Talks between Kennedy’s office, the office of the acting vice-president of finance and resources, Greg Fowler, and college and unit officials about contingency funds have begun. She described it as a fact-finding mission to “better understand the implications and risks for colleges and units. We need to know how the funds are earmarked and, by recovering them, the extent of any risk we’d we’d be taking on any risk centrally.
“We respect that this is a very sensitive topic because people treat budgets and accumulated surpluses as their own and conserve spending,” she continued. “It’s going to be a very delicate discussion.”
Those discussions will continue until mid-November with a recommendation on contingency recovery expected to go before the Board of Governors in December.
“Ultimately what we would like to see in the longer term is an upper and lower limit on these funds,” said Kennedy. “We think it’s a good idea for colleges and units to have some funds available that will allow them to take advantage of opportunities that arise and also to identify specific financial risks, but we want to take a more thoughtful approach to this.”
From "College, unit contigency funds needed for budget adjustments," by Colleen MacPherson, On Campus News, Oct. 12, 2012
As the new academic year begins, we wanted to take this opportunity to provide you with an update regarding our university’s operating budget and the adjustments required in view of our multi-year projections. Some time has passed since we last wrote to you directly to discuss the project, and progress has been made over the summer months that we would like to share with the campus community.
Provost and Vice-President Academic Brett Fairbairn on Budget Adjustments
Principles for Operating Budget Adjustments Project
In May 2012, the Board of Governors at the University of Saskatchewan asked university administration to produce a sustainable balanced budget, reducing operating expenditures by $44.5 million annually and balancing the budget by 2015/16 while at the same time supporting the strategic priorities of the university as described in Promise and Potential, the University’s Third Integrated Plan, and in the Strategic Directions.
Aligned with the vision of the university to ‘hold an honourable place among the best’ and guided by the Strategic Directions, the operating budget adjustments process 2012-2016 will be based on the following principles:
Alignment - be aligned with the university’s vision as expressed in
the Strategic Directions, Foundational Documents and integrated
Comprehensiveness - take a holistic view of the university and all of its
resources, including the opportunity to collaborate internally and with
Sustainability - look for long-term, sustainable, operating budget leading
to a more efficient, innovative and responsive university.
Transparency - be transparent with respect to process and criteria,
integrative and consultative.
Respectfulness - treat individuals with respect and dignity.
Evidence-informed - base decision-making on defined criteria.
Opportunity - look for opportunities to differentiate ourselves by
sharpening our focus and acting on our strategic advantages to achieve our
research, teaching and service goals.
Accountability - be informed and guided by the recommendations of
institutional leadership, leading practice, and evidence.
Consultation - take action consistent with existing governance
mechanisms, established policies and processes, including the principle of
Timeliness - decisions will be made in a timely fashion.
As part of the budget adjustments project to
address the growing gap between the university’s revenue and expenses, a
steering committee has been struck. This group will work closely with the
Provost’s Committee on Integrated Planning and the work groups for each
quadrant (central administrative, distributed administrative, distributed
academic and central academic) to ensure that budget adjustments efforts are
The University of Saskatchewan Board of Governors approved the 2012-13 detailed operating budget and a longer-term budget adjustment strategy at their May 8, 2012 meeting. With this approval we now have their direction to implement a set of operating budget adjustments to address the university’s financial challenges and pressures that maintains our focus on institutional priorities in a sustainable manner.
The 2012-13 Operating Budget Summary is now online
The 2012-13 Operating Budget Summary provides context to the university’s operating budget, an overview of revenues and expenditures in the detailed operating budget, as well as the detailed operating budget.
As part of the ongoing process related to the current financial pressures our university is facing, we are holding our next Financial Town Hall (on the topic of "Emerging Strategy") on May 16 at 11:30 am in Convocation Hall. Everyone is welcome and we encourage you to attend.
At this town hall, we will talk about how the university's plans have started to come together since the last town hall on April 3, including the process, governance and timelines of upcoming initiatives to balance the university's budget. We will also discuss how your ideas assist in forming the strategy to narrow the gap between our revenue and expenses.