Recent Updates

20
June
2014

$32 million: Progress made in operating budget adjustments

As the university’s financial team reviews 2013-14 results, they have also been calculating progress made towards closing the projected gap between our annual expenses and revenues. Based on actions taken in 2012-13 and 13-14, about $32 million in permanent budget adjustments has been achieved through a combination of measures, with about $12.5 million remaining, based on our original projections, to be achieved through either additional net revenue or expense reductions, or a combination.

Savings in the first two years of operating budget adjustments (2012-13 and 13-14) are a result of:

  • Workforce planning actions: $9.8 million
  • Projected net savings from the incentive plan for retirement for faculty, after strategic faculty reinvestment : $7.6 million
  • Changes to our investment strategy and increased reliance on investment revenues in our operating budget: $6.6 million
  • Changes in institutional practices and other initiatives, such as two up one down (temperature control) and non-salary cuts: $8 million

Given the progress that has been made to date, changes in university leadership and the concerns raised about the pace of the change process, university leaders are taking some time over the summer to determine next steps. The president and vice-presidents will spend this time working with deans, executive directors, associate vice-presidents and unit leaders to assess which actions will proceed right away and which require further discussion or consultation. More information on next steps will be provided in the fall.

Although the past few years have been challenging, and change is never easy, the university has achieved real progress due to the hard work of many on our university campus. I want to thank you for your patience as we determine what more is needed to ensure the ongoing financial sustainability and renewal of our university.

Warm regards,

Greg Fowler
Vice-President Finance and Resources


17
June
2014

The university’s financial planning and reporting process

In both June 2012 and 2013, we presented preliminary year end results and the upcoming year’s detailed operating budget to the campus community. Staff in our Financial Services Division and the office of Institutional Planning and Assessment are working through our current financial position to be able to provide this annual update to the campus community in the near future. In advance of its release I thought it would be a great time to go over the elements that make up our key financial planning and reporting processes, so you are better informed of the role each plays.

The university’s detailed operating budget, which represents about 50% of the consolidated budget, outlines the operating revenue we expect to bring in and the operating expenses we are planning for in the upcoming year. Our budget year runs from May 1, 2014 to April 2015. Our budgeted revenue is based on an approximate 2% increase in our provincial operating grant (announced in March), along with projections for tuition/enrolment and investment income. Our budgeted expenses are approximately 75% personnel, along with additional targeted expenses, utilities, etc. This information is expected to be shared later this month.

The annual financial report looks back to the most recent year (in our case, May 1, 2013 to April 30, 2014), including what we actually achieved in respect to our 2013-14 detailed operating budget. In spring 2013, we released a detailed operating budget for 2013-14 indicating a $3 million budgeted deficit based on plans to continue with budget cuts. At this time we are confident that, between operating budget adjustment actions taken to date and favorable actual results primarily driven by investment income, we will achieve a surplus for 2013-14. Although we have preliminary year end information, the official audited results will be available in the early fall.

The operations forecast represents the university’s funding request to the Government of Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Advanced Education. This document is prepared and submitted each summer in advance of the provincial budget announcement in March of the following year. This document is key in outlining our priorities to government and the resources needed to fund these priorities. We expect to share the 2015-16 operations forecast with the campus community this summer.

At the beginning of each planning cycle (the current cycle is 2012-2017), a multi-year operating budget framework is developed to support the university’s integrated plan. This framework is based on a number of key planning parameters, such as assumptions for the operating grant from the province, the level of tuition rates and student enrolment, salaries and benefits costs, and a number of other costs such as the operation of new facilities, utility rate increases, software and systems upgrades, and compliance costs associated with legal and regulatory changes. This framework is currently being reviewed to determine the progress made since its last release in 2012, allowing us to update our projected gap between revenue and expenses by 2017. This review is scheduled to be completed by fall 2014.

We are currently reviewing our progress against our original $44.5M operating budget adjustments target. The results of this review will be released shortly.

Links to the most current versions of each of the documents listed above can be found on the “Resources” tab at usask.ca/finances. Please continue to visit usask.ca/finances for updates on our finances in the coming weeks.

Greg Fowler
Vice-President Finance and Resources


9
May
2014

Planning for change: 19 projects mark next phase of TransformUS

The release of the TransformUS action plan April 30 marks the turning point in the program prioritization process, from discussion and recommendations to implementing change but there are still months of work ahead to ensure the university’s long-term financial stability.

“I’d characterize us as being about halfway through TransformUS at this point,” said Provost and Vice-President Academic Brett Fairbairn the day after the plan was made public. “We’ve had 18 months of discussion and consultation; we’re now launching a series of projects.”

Those projects, which are grouped under the themes of simplifying structures, focusing on the university’s core mission, implementing a sharing model for support services and incorporating ongoing prioritization, address the recommendations made in December 2013 by the task forces charged with evaluating all academic and administrative functions. The plan also takes up the challenge from the Board of Governors to leave no stone unturned in the effort to alleviate a significant projected budget deficit. 

“One way for people to read this plan is to think about the themes and how they apply to more than the specific projects,” said Fairbairn. “To simplify, to focus, to share and to prioritize are things that everybody can do in every job in the university.”

Greg Fowler, the vice-president of finance and resources, said the objective of prioritizing programs through the work of the task forces and the resulting action plan is “to create a system that doesn’t need to face budget cuts every few years, but rather continuously changes and re-allocates resources to meet priorities and adapt to new funding realities.”

In writing the action plan, the Provost’s Committee on Integrated Planning (PCIP) drew on in-house expertise in areas like planning and finance. It also consulted the Education Advisory Board, a university and college think tank based in Washington, D.C. Fowler said the board has done significant research on shared service structures - one of the plan’s four themes - at universities across North American and Europe, and representatives presented those findings to senior administrators at the U of S.

The action plan is designed to find $20-25 million in permanent savings and up to $5 million for reinvestment in priority areas. There are 19 separate projects within the four theme areas in the plan, and not all of the called-for changes will happen at once. The roll out of the projects takes into account the university’s long-term commitments to its students, said Fairbairn, “but fortunately we can plan ahead because we’re not dealing with a current deficit. This is about addressing a future issue.”

While the action plan outlines the changes needed to meet the financial goals, many details remain to be sorted out, and much of that work will fall to leaders at various levels in the organization.

Authority, responsibility and corporate knowledge are widely distributed, explained Fairbairn, “so one committee spelling out how it will be for everyone doesn’t fit the structure of a university. Leadership is distributed and for us to do what’s outlined in the plan requires that leaders … at every level step up.”

Fowler said the university is taking a conscious change leadership approach through Human Resources that examines the current state and then defines the desired future state. The goal is to create structures that better serve students and faculty in “a workplace that also benefits staff with more specialization and a better organization to work in.

“We expect our leaders in the institution’s 31 planning units to be able to take this work on and support the culture of change we need.”

Fairbairn made reference to his 2014 academic address in which he suggested the structures within the university “are in our heads, and changing them is as easy or as hard as changing our minds. The (action) plan was written with that in mind – we’re changing a lot of structures and processes and that will mean we’ll need the changes in behaviour and the changes in the culture of the organization.”

From "Planning for change: 19 projects mark next phase of TransformUS," by Colleen MacPherson, On Campus News, May 9, 2014


8
May
2014

TransformUS update: Projects and project briefs

To our campus community,
 
Last Thursday, the provost's committee on integrated planning released a series of draft project briefs to support the TransformUS action plan. These project briefs outline cross-institutional and large-scale unit-based projects of university-wide interest, including scope, timeframe and critical success factors, and were provided to inform the campus about the nature of the projects being initiated. It is important to note that many projects are conceptual and in an early stage of development at this time, and some project briefs are much more complete than others.
 
Project leads and working groups (where relevant) are now working to develop more detailed project plans to determine how to address the expectations set out in the project briefs. In many cases, the projects will require significant input and consultation with the campus community. Our university now needs its leaders, students, faculty, staff, alumni, governing bodies and others to shape and determine the best ways to make changes such as those outlined in the action plan. Our university's leadership team, including our deans and associate vice-presidents, will be the leads of the projects and will ensure that those who have the most knowledge are involved in developing final proposals to decision-makers and governing bodies.
 
We are at approximately the midpoint of the TransformUS process, the time when recommendations and discussion shift over toward action. Over the course of the next year, our campus community can expect to be engaged in further discussions of how many of these projects will come to life. As we know more details, we will share these with you on our blog at transformus.usask.ca.
 
Kind regards,
 
Brett and Greg
 
Recent blog posts:
Clarifying the library project (by Vicki Williamson, dean of the University Library and Sanjeev Anand, dean of the College of Law)
Transformation of the University Library (by Ken Ladd, acting dean of the University Library)
Where are the details?


30
April
2014

TransformUS action plan

Students, faculty and staff,

In February 2014, I tasked the provost’s committee on integrated planning (PCIP) to develop a TransformUS action plan based on the recommendations of the task forces and feedback provided by the campus community. Below you will find a message from Provost and Vice-President Academic Brett Fairbairn and Vice-President Finance and Resources Greg Fowler presenting the TransformUS action plan on behalf of PCIP. I believe that when implemented, the proposals in this plan will help us build not only a more financially sustainable institution, but one that is also better positioned to deliver on its core missions of learning and discovery. Thank you to PCIP and to our leaders across campus who were influential in the development of this action plan.

Ilene Busch-Vishniac

 

To our campus community,

We want to begin by acknowledging how challenging the past two years have been for our campus community as the university has taken steps toward financial sustainability, and even more so in the past 16 months as we have undertaken TransformUS. We know there are big expectations in terms of the action plan developed by the provost’s committee on integrated planning (PCIP) in consultation and coordination with our deans, executive directors, associate vice-presidents and unit leaders. We hope you will see the work of our TransformUS task forces, feedback from the campus community, and conversations with leaders, students and governing bodies reflected in the action plan we are sharing with you today.

The action plan is characterized within four themes – simplify and amalgamate structures, focus on core mission, share services by working together across unit boundaries, and allocate resources to priority programs and services. There is a bias toward action in this plan: we are seeking to advance the university decisively rather than through small, incremental steps. As you read the plan, it is important to remember that TransformUS is not only about short-term cost reduction. It is about effective use of our resources, minimizing future costs and ensuring that our resources are focused behind our priorities.

In addition to the action plan, a series of project briefs and a document indicating how PCIP addressed all of the recommendations of the two task forces will be available online at transformus.usask.ca on Thursday, May 1 (NSID protected). These briefs will provide further information on specific projects outlined in the action plan.

Members of our campus community must remain focused on our goal: to be recognized among the most distinguished research-intensive universities in North America and world-leading in selected areas of education and research. Achieving this goal requires our collective energy. We thank you, the members of our campus community, for your contributions and perseverance in this journey through TransformUS.

We know you are likely to have many questions while reading the action plan and encourage you to speak to your dean or unit leader, visit the questions and answers page on transformus.usask.ca, and continue to engage in conversation with us on our blog. As projects within this plan progress, we will provide updates on our blog and through emails to the campus community.

Warm regards,

Brett and Greg

View TransformUS action plan


4
April
2014

2014-2015 provincial funding details

Colleagues,

As committed to in the president’s March 19 provincial budget announcement, we now have a more detailed overview of the 2014-15 provincial budget and its implications for the University of Saskatchewan. The Government of Saskatchewan will provide the university with a total of $375.1 million in operating grant, capital funding and targeted funding for 2014-15, an increase of $15.7 million over 2013-14. Highlights regarding this 2014-15 increase in provincial funding are included below, within the four categories of funding:  base operating, targeted, capital, and science and innovation.

Base operating grant

After considering the portion of new funding for targeted envelopes such as expansion of student seats in the College of Medicine, the university will receive approximately a 2 per cent increase in our operating grant for 2014-15 operations. This funding will help pay for salaries and benefits, utilities and general expenses incurred in our day to day operations. This increase is in line with our Multi-Year Operating Budget Framework projections and reaffirms the need for the university to be financially sustainable in an environment where 2 per cent grant increases are the norm.

Targeted funding

Part of our new funding must be allocated for specific, or targeted, uses that include:

  • $500,000 for nursing education including the expansion of the distributed learning initiative in the College of Nursing;
  • about $2.5 million for continued expansion of student undergraduate and graduate seats in the College of Medicine;
  • $1.0 million towards the operations of the Health Sciences Building, which will help pay for utilities, caretaking, maintenance and building management; and
  • $500,000 for the Canada Excellence Research Chair in the Global Water Institute, for a total of approximately $4.8 million towards the government’s $10 million commitment to this chair.

Capital funding

The university is receiving approximately $11.9 million for preventative maintenance and renewal (previously called the sustaining capital grant). Although this is $3 million less than the amount requested, it will help us address things such as regular building maintenance and upkeep, as well as adapting spaces to better meet academic needs, such as fitting every classroom on campus with multimedia technology. The university will also receive $6.5 million for continued construction of the Health Sciences capital project (including renovation of the A and B wings), which will cover projected construction costs for 2014-15.

Other funding

The university will receive supplementary facilities funding of about $14.5 million which we will use to repay principal and interest on our debt. Current annual payment obligations are estimated at $15.3 million.

Innovation and science funding

Consistent with 2013-14 levels, targeted provincial funding will continue for the Canadian Light Source ($4.1 million), VIDO ($3.5 million) and InterVac ($2.1 million). Provincial funding directed for Innovation, Opportunity and International scholarships of about $2 million will also continue.

In June, following approval by the Board of Governors, full details of the university’s 2014-15 operating budget will be available. In the interim, please continue to visit www.usask.ca/finances for the most up-to-date information about university finances.

Kind regards,

Brett Fairbairn
Provost and Vice-President Academic

Greg Fowler
Acting Vice-President Finance and Resources


1
April
2014

Tuition, TransformUS questions dominate public board session

Members of the university’s Board of Governors took the opportunity to describe their role in institutional governance, commit to listening to students and reiterate their accountability during their annual public session held March 18 in Convocation Hall.

In her opening remarks before a crowd of about 100 people, chair Susan Milburn stressed that in the university’s tricameral governance system, the board does not manage day-to-day operations but does set the strategic and long-term financial direction of the institution. The focus, she said, is always on financial sustainability to ensure the U of S “will be around serving Saskatchewan for another 100 years.”

Ongoing monitoring of the university’s financial situation is a key role of the board, said Milburn, who added a lot of attention is paid to risk factors “that may prevent us from delivering on our strategic objectives.” She said the top five risks for the U of S are increasing research success, student recruitment, funding for priorities, recruitment of faculty and staff, and the level of Aboriginal engagement. Board decisions are not always easy, she said, but “they are always in the best interests of the university.”

Before allowing questions from the floor, various board members described the work of standing committees of the board, and Blaine Flavel spoke about the Gordon Oakes-Red Bear Student Centre currently under construction. Describing the design by Douglas Cardinal, Flavel said the building will “be spoken of in the future with the same respect as the Thorvaldson Building. It will be one of the landmark buildings of this university.”

A number of questions were raised about various aspects of TransformUS. Milburn said the board reviewed the plan for program prioritization, asked hard questions of senior administrators and determined it was “a reasonable way to get from point A to point B.” The board continues to support TransformUS but Flavel admitted “irrespective of what model we deployed, not everybody would be happy.”

Responding to questions about specifics in the TransformUS task force reports, Vice-chair Greg Smith reminded the audience no decisions have yet been made and said the board, along with its “governance partners”—Council and Senate —will have the chance to critique the implementation plan.

Claire Card, a professor of large animal clinical science, asked “if there will be consequences” should TransformUS not turn out well, “if enrolment declines or if faculty flee.” Smith replied he expects “full accountability, for ourselves and for our administration team.”

There were a number of questions about the recently announced tuition increases for 2014-15. Jordan Sherbino, vice-president of academic affairs with the U of S Student’s Union, said the expectation deans will talk about tuition with their students “only happens in theory” and as a result, student perspectives are not being shared with decision-making bodies. He asked the board how it plans to rectify this in the future. David Dubé responded, saying only with all relevant information can there be “an open and honest debate at the board. We need every shred of information and we will ask administration to ensure those conversations with deans are happening.”

President Ilene Busch-Vishniac added she will follow up on Sherbino’s question to ensure student comments “are making it to the board.”

There was also a question about the university apparently canceling plans to expand child-care services on campus. The president explained a lack of funding requires exploring new options. “We’ve pulled back from our commitment to a brand new building,” she said, “not from our commitment to child care.”

From "Tuition, TransformUS questions dominate public board session," by Colleen MacPherson, On Campus News, March 28, 2014


28
March
2014

Looking ahead to 2014-15: Detailed operating budget in the works

With the announcement March 19 that the provincial government will increase the University of Saskatchewan’s operating grant for 2014-15 by the requested two per cent, to $326 million, work now begins on figuring out exactly what that means for the coming year.

On budget day, the university received a letter from the Ministry of Advanced Education outlining the government’s contributions to its operations in 2014-15, explained Jacquie Thomarat, acting director of budget strategy and planning in Institutional Planning and Assessment (IPA). The next step “is to analyze what we got and what we didn’t get, and all of that will be plugged into our detailed operating budget that’s going to the Board of Governors for approval in late May.”

On March 19, President Ilene Busch-Vishniac said in a media release the grant increase was “a clear message that they (the provincial government) recognize the value of post-secondary education to the economic vitality of Saskatchewan.” The grant increase is welcome news “but our work towards building a financially sustainable university remains,” she said.

Thomarat noted the grant increase for the U of S was particularly welcome in light of a slight decease in the province’s overall spending for the coming year.

In addition to the base operating grant, the government committed continued support to various initiatives in the Colleges of Medicine and Nursing, to financial assistance for students, and to the operation of the Health Sciences Building and VIDO-InterVac.

Thomarat said many people will be involved in discussing the implications of the grant increase, including the president, provost and vice-president finance and resources along with representatives from IPA and Financial Services Division. “We’ll also be working closely with the ministry to understand the 2014-15 fiscal year’s funding in detail,” she added.

The base operating grant increase matches what the university asked for in its annual operations forecast and is what the president described as a “pragmatic and rational expectation” when she discussed the budget with Council March 20.

The challenge in preparing the detailed budget, said Thomarat, “is that right now, we know our actual results for the third quarter of 2013-14, what we’ve projected for expenses for 2014-15 and our funding for the coming year from the provincial government.” The rest involves making estimates about things like how much salaries and benefits will increase due to collective agreement settlements, what the electric bill will be and how much university investments will earn, all a year in advance.

But Thomarat pointed out that even with the two-percent grant increase, the budget projection for 2014-15 included in the operations forecast showed a $14.5-million deficit for the coming year. The reason is projected cost increases are about four per cent overall but, as in the past, the deficit will be addressed “by managing our operations over the course of the year” through permanent and one-time adjustments, she said. It is an approach that has proved successful; “annually we’ve made concerted efforts to balance the budget and that’s a good thing.”

In addition to balancing the annual operating budget, the university remains committed to achieving $44.5 million in permanent savings in its operations by 2015-16, she said. “That’s the target approved by the Board of Governors to ensure we achieve ongoing financial sustainability.”

More budget information will be provided to the campus community once the analysis is complete, said Thomarat, but budgeting is a never-ending exercise: “I’m already thinking about 2015-16.”

From "Looking ahead to 2014-15: Detailed operating budget in the works for next year," by Colleen MacPherson, On Campus News, March 28, 2014


19
March
2014

Provincial Budget Announcement

To all faculty, staff and students,

I am pleased to provide a brief update on today’s provincial budget announcement as well as a copy of the statement released to media today (see below). In a tight budget year for the province, we can appreciate the continued support and the value placed on post-secondary education.

The province has announced a 2% increase to our operating grant as well as support for initiatives in the College of Medicine, the Health Sciences Building, research and support for students. While we will need some time to fully evaluate the impact of today’s funding announcement, let there be no question that we must continue with implementation of TransformUS and other operating budget adjustment efforts in order to secure financial sustainability and the future of our university. 

A more detailed analysis will be shared with you in the coming weeks.

Ilene Bush-Vischniac

President

------------------------------------------------------------

MEDIA RELEASE - Wednesday, March 19, 2014

University of Saskatchewan pleased with support from provincial government

The University of Saskatchewan (U of S) is pleased with the government’s continued support for post-secondary education, given realities of the 2014-15 provincial budget. The U of S received a 2 per cent increase to its base operating budget and targeted funding to support initiatives in the College of Medicine, the Health Sciences Building, InterVac and support for students.

U of S President Ilene Busch-Vishniac said this budget speaks to the importance of higher education. “Despite this being a tight budget year, the government has sent a clear message that they recognize the value of post-secondary education to the economic vitality of Saskatchewan,” Busch-Vishniac said. “We appreciate the continued support for the U of S. The increase to our budget and allocations to specific initiatives allows us to continue to build a stronger university, one that will continue to serve the people of Saskatchewan.” 

The university’s allocation for 2014-15 is consistent with the university’s request to the province and its projections in its multi-year budget framework.  

“This budget is welcome news, but our work towards building a financially sustainable university remains,” Busch-Vishniac said.  “We are committed to using our resources carefully and strategically, and this budget allows us to continue with the important work of transforming the university into a strong, U15 university.” 

The university will be analyzing the impact of the provincial funding over the coming weeks and will announce its 2014-15 budget in early June after it is approved by the U of S Board of Governors. 

For information on the university’s finances, visit www.usask.ca/finances.

 


14
March
2014

Temperatures to shift 2 up, 1 down

A slight adjustment in building temperatures at the University of Saskatchewan is expected to reap financial and environmental benefits, but not make people uncomfortable in their classes or offices.

It was announced Feb. 27, to coincide with International Polar Bear Day, that indoor temperatures across campus will be raised two degrees in the spring and summer, to a target of 24 degrees C, and lowered one degree to a target of 21 degrees C in fall and winter. “And like all good energy management programs, there’s an environmental benefit and an economic benefit too,” said Kathryn Theede, energy and emissions officer in the Office of Sustainability.

Those benefits are expected to amount to about $200,000 annually in utility costs and a 2,000-tonne reduction in annual carbon emissions attributable to the U of S.

Theede said the new temperature initiative – referred to as two up, one down – builds on the university’s Climate Action Plan that was instituted in 2012 and all procedures related to the change are expected to be in place by May when the central heating plant switches buildings from heating to cooling. Most campus spaces are currently maintained at 22-23 degrees C year round, which is within the industry standard for thermal comfort, the point at which about 80 per cent of people are happy.

“We’re working toward getting everyone into this range,” added Heather Trueman, sustainability initiatives liaison.

One of the first steps in making the change is to ensure thermostats are properly calibrated to read temperature accurately, said Theede. But even with accurate thermostats, campus is an extraordinarily complex environment to heat and cool consistently given the varying ages of infrastructure and the sizes of rooms. A lecture theatre, for example, is cool when empty but can heat quickly when it is filled with 200 people.

“The change would be so much easier if we were dealing with only one building,” she said, “so we need to use the target temperatures as rules of thumb. There are parts of campus that are hard to heat and cool, and the facilities division deals with those on a case-by-case basis. We’re also faced with areas of special need like research, animal care and technology so there has to be some variation.”

Calculating the savings in both dollars and emissions is also a bit of an art, said Trueman.  Because there are so many variables, the sustainability office relies on industry calculations to estimate savings, and even then, the expectations are conservative.

When last calculated in 2009-10, U of S carbon emissions were pegged at 165,000 tonnes per year with 58 per cent of that total attributed to electricity, 34 per cent to natural gas and the remainder to transportation, waste and agriculture. The savings estimate of 2,000 tonnes is a very small percentage of actuals, said Trueman, “but to be absolutely accurate we would have to be able to hold everything constant, including the weather. We have to rely on industry wisdom about what percentage we can save with each degree of temperature change.”

“We have to trust in the logic,” continued Theede. “If we reduce demand, our greenhouse gases will go down and we’ll save money.”

From "Temperatures to shift 2 up, 1 down," by Colleen MacPherson, On Campus News, March 14, 2014


14
March
2014

Tuition up overall average of 4.5%

Students at the University of Saskatchewan will see their tuition fees rise by an overall average of 4.5 per cent for the 2014-15 academic year and for the first time, tuition revenue will be allocated directly to colleges and schools to continue to offer and improve programs and services.

The U of S Board of Governors approved the new tuition rates March 6. While the average increase for all students is 4.5 per cent, undergraduates will see increases between zero and 5.5 per cent next year, depending on the program. Tuition for standard graduate programs will go up an average of four per cent, again depending on the program. Three professional graduate programs will see tuition increases of 10-20 per cent. (Please see chart of typical tuition increases by program)

With the phase in of the university’s new Transparent Activity-Based Budget System (TABBS), tuition revenue will be used by the college or school to support students on a number of fronts, explained Brett Fairbairn, provost and vice-president academic. While the change to TABBS “won’t create more revenue for the university, it’s making transparent how tuition is tied to the activity in the colleges and schools and how it helps support that activity.”

In addition to financing program delivery, tuition dollars will go to financial aid for students, advising and career counseling, new faculty positions and new program options, he said. “It’s revenue that will enable colleges to do things that are good for students and good for communities. The fees that students pay are associated with the value and the quality of the experience they get.”

The university continues to set its tuition fees based on the principles of comparability, affordability and accessibility, and quality, Fairbairn continued, not on the need to balance the budget.

Tuition revenue is one input into the budgeting process, which involves considering all revenue sources, “projecting those into the future and planning our expenditures. We don’t plan the expenditures first and then go back and ask what we need from tuition fees.”

He added efforts to tighten expenditures through workforce planning, program prioritization, reducing utility costs and other initiatives rather than increasing revenue through tuition are key to the budget process but “may or may not register with students.”

Adhering to the tuition-setting principles means considering myriad factors, not all of which are strictly financial. On the comparability front, information is collected from the other 14 members of the U15, Canada’s largest research universities and the U of S comparator group. “And despite Statistics Canada’s rather odd way of calculating things, we know that program by program, our fees are below the median in the U15.”

In comparing quality of programs, Fairbairn said the first consideration is whether other programs are accredited, “the minimum bar.” Student outcomes are also factored in “but there’s also the quality of the student experience. Sometimes the differences are about services related to the program rather than the core academic program. There are programs across the country that are offering services to students that we don’t and one of the reasons they are able to do so is because of their revenue from fees.”

Ensuring tuition is affordable and not a barrier to access involves analysis of a wide range of information and trends across the country, said the provost.

“For example, we know that students in Saskatchewan have comparatively high debt loads when they graduate but they pay off that debt faster than students in other provinces. We’re thinking that has something to do with the provincial government’s system of grants and loan forgiveness, the Graduate Retention Program.”

Another consideration is that U of S graduates move into a healthy local job market “but it cuts both ways. Institutions that have higher fees than we do are also likely in areas that have much higher unemployment and they may have some lower living costs.”

Adding to the complexity in setting tuition are “things that aren’t directly financial in nature.” Fairbairn cited distributed learning as one example. “It’s an academically driven initiative but it’s about access,” about helping students learn where they live and about easing their transition to university. “Similarly, we’re very interested in credit transfer (and) in recognizing prior learning. These are all access issues too.”

Tuition fees make up about 23 per cent of the university’s total annual revenue, a figure Fairbairn does not expect to vary much, but that will depend on the government grant; it will be announced in the provincial budget March 19.

“Whenever the (tuition) fee increase is higher than the grant increase, that percentage shifts slightly but because the grant is so much larger – almost 70 per cent of our operating funds – it has only shifted marginally in the past number of years.”

Fairbairn said aside from significant tuition hikes to address particular program circumstances, “I think that universities should increase tuition fees by a moderate amount every year rather than by a large amount in any one year. I would rather we saw increases of three, three and three (per cent) than zero, zero and 10. We think that’s easier for students.”

And going even further, he said taking a multi-year approach to setting tuition would take the guesswork out of the equation for students. As the university leaders become more comfortable with the current tuition-setting process and principles, “we’re also getting more comfortable with having the conversation” about multi-year tuition commitments.

Locking in a key revenue source for several years presents some risks, particularly when public funding is under pressure, he said, “but I can appreciate where it would be nice for students if we went the extra step and just projected tuition forward.”

Detailed information about 2014-15 tuition and student fees can be found at usask.ca/tuition

From "Tuition up overall average of 4.5%: Revenue going to colleges, schools through TABBS," by Colleen MacPherson, On Campus News, March 14, 2014


14
March
2014

Council defeats motion of non confidence

Council defeated a motion Feb. 27 that expressed a lack of confidence in TransformUS as a means of making academic decisions. TransformUS is the university’s program prioritization process that is unfolding as part of efforts to deal with a projected budget deficit.

The motion was introduced by Len Findlay, professor in the Department of English, in an appeal for collegial action instead of “institutional alignment and financial expediency.” He said Council made two mistakes when it approved in principle a process of program prioritization in January 2013 – it consented to an undefined process and showed little curiosity about the extent of the university’s “budgetary mess.”

Findlay urged Council members to support the motion as a way of reclaiming its independence in making decisions about the university’s academic agenda. While Council cannot audit the future, he said, it can “shape it on the basis of academic excellence.”

In the long debate the followed, Council members supporting the motion criticized TransformUS and the Robert Dickeson model on which it was based, expressed concern about how academic programs were evaluated and noted the potential for the loss of faculty positions with any elimination of programs.

Lois Berry, acting dean of nursing, speaking against the motion said that while the process is not perfect, it has resulted in conversations “like no others” about academic programs. Decisions are inevitable, she said, and encouraged colleagues to engage in the process.

Several people shared their experiences at other institutions that implemented across-the board rather than strategic cuts. The alternatives to TransformUS “are not pretty,” said David Hill, dean of pharmacy and nutrition.

Lisa Kalynchuk, a faculty member in the Department of Psychology and co-chair of the TransformUS committee that evaluated academic programs, reminded the meeting that the authority of Council to debate any and all proposed changes to programming has never been in question. But, she continued, the task force did identify programs “that are not working. Don’t we owe it to students to fix them, and if we can’t fix them, to get rid of them?”

The non-confidence motion was defeated by a large majority, as was an earlier motion calling for a recorded vote.

From "Council defeats motion of non confidence," On Campus News, March 14, 2014


10
March
2014

2014-15 tuition rates and student fees

U of S students, faculty and staff,

On March 6, 2014, the Board of Governors approved tuition rates for the 2014-15 academic year.

For 2014-15, undergraduate and graduate tuition rates will rise by an overall average of 4.5 per cent. Tuition increases will vary by program, with increases in undergraduate tuition rates of 0 to 5.5 per cent, and an average increase of 4 per cent for standard graduate programs.

It is important for students to know that tuition rates are not set with the university budget in mind or in order to make up budget shortfalls. Instead, they 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.

Our commitment to our students is to continue to offer high-quality programs that earn high levels of student satisfaction. Given that tuition rates remain below the median of peer programs across Canada, we believe we are offering terrific value to students for their education.

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. In 2014-15, student fees for undergraduate students will be $785.95 and for graduate students will be $811.16.

Tuition and fees revenue helps the university to fund priorities including enhancing student services to ensure quality educational experiences, providing scholarships and bursaries to increase accessibility and affordability for students, and recruiting and retaining high-quality faculty.

For detailed information on 2014-15 tuition and student fees, please visit www.usask.ca/tuition.

Kind regards,

Brett Fairbairn
Provost and Vice-President Academic

2014-15_Tuition_Principles fact sheet.pdf
2014-15_Tuition_Rates and fees fact sheet.pdf


27
February
2014

Two Up and One Down: The U of S takes the challenge!

On International Polar Bear Day, the University of Saskatchewan is pledging to reduce building energy use.

Based on the overwhelming number of sustainability ideas submitted for Operating Budget Adjustments, our campus is clearly committed to doing our part to address climate change. We have chosen International Polar Bear Day, February 27, to announce an adjustment to the cooling and heating temperatures in our buildings to reduce energy use and carbon emissions. 

Beginning in May, building temperatures will be raised two degrees in the spring and summer and lowered one degree in the fall and winter. These small changes will reduce our carbon emissions by an estimated 2,000 tonnes yearly and save an estimated $200,000 in utilities costs. This will have an effect similar to taking 400 passenger vehicles off the road.

We are pledging to take this responsible action without compromising our learning and working environment. Over the next two months, FMD will be working with facility building managers to identify areas where controlled temperatures are required for research, animal care, technology, and other special operational needs. Implementation details will be shared in the coming months.

“The university is committed to reducing our ecological footprint and our contributions to climate change,” said Colin Tennent, Associate Vice-President, Facilities Management, and co-chair of the U of S Sustainability Committee. “This energy management initiative will not only reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, it will reduce operating costs, which will create greater opportunities for core academic and research activities at the U of S.”.

Mark the day, by joining Douglas Clark, Centennial Chair in Human Dimensions of Environmental Change, on Thursday, February 27, 2014 at noon in the north concourse of Place Riel, for a presentation on the ability of the Arctic to adapt to climate change and what that means for polar bears, Arctic ecosystems, and people living there. Also come to see the video, Inuit Knowledge and Climate Change

Visit paws.usask.ca today to find out how you can take personal action to save energy at work or home!


3
February
2014

TransformUS update: Thank you and next steps

Below you will find links to two letters regarding TransformUS. The first is a letter from President Ilene Busch-Vishniac concluding the consultation and feedback phase of TransformUS. The second is an update on next steps from Provost and Vice-President Academic Brett Fairbairn and Vice-President Finance and Resources Greg Fowler.


27
January
2014

Reminder: TransformUS feedback closes January 31

This is a reminder to the campus community that the deadline to provide feedback on the recommendations of the TransformUS task forces is this Friday - January 31, 2014. To provide feedback, please click on the appropriate link below:

Academic Program Transformation Task Force recommendations
Support Service Transformation Task Force recommendations

You may also email your feedback to transformus@usask.ca.

As part of the analysis and implementation phase of TransformUS (February-April 2014), the Provost's Committee on Integrated Planning (PCIP) will be analyzing the reports and feedback submitted, along with doing further analysis on the data, prior to the development of the implementation plan. Your feedback will help ensure evidence-informed decisions are made.

For more information, please visit transformus.usask.ca.


15
January
2014

Town hall: January 15, 2014 (students only)

To view a video version of today's student town hall, please click here.


13
January
2014

Transforming the U of S: President talks about TransformUS reports, process

At the end of November, the task forces delegated with prioritizing all academic and support service programs at the University of Saskatchewan delivered their respective reports to President Ilene Busch-Vishniac. On Dec. 9, the TransformUS reports were made public. Prior to the holiday break, On Campus News editor Colleen MacPherson sat down with the president in late December to talk about her reaction to the reports, the response so far and where the TransformUS process goes from here.

What was your initial response to the reports?

IBV: I was very pleased with them. I was as anxious as everyone on campus has been and I was worried that doing their work, they might discover pockets of excellence and pockets of struggling programs so that it could look as if we would then have a bull’s eye written on someone’s back. Instead of that, they indicate that in any given unit, parts of it have been going reasonably well, sometimes great, and parts of it are going not so well, so the fact that the marks or grades were distributed more or less evenly across campus was a very pleasant surprise.

Was there anything that surprised you?

IBV: There was little there that was terribly surprising. A number of the themes in the academic task force report I’ve been noting myself. A number of the themes in the support services report are perfectly understandable; you could see exactly where they were coming from. It is clear the task forces did a huge amount of work with the information that was available to them. We now need to look at all of them (the recommendations) carefully, contextualize them in the broader view of the whole institution and then figure out exactly how to move forward with those recommendations and additional information at hand.

Do you think it was a challenge for the task forces to balance various units’ ability to fill out the required template and provide the necessary information?

IBV: There will have been some variability because of that but certainly at least one of the reports noted that when they just didn’t have enough information, they put that unit or program in quintile five. That means we have to look at things in quintile five very carefully. Are they there because people just didn’t have enough information or because maybe we don’t need to keep doing this? We will take every recommendation very seriously but we also know that we now need to filter them through the lens of keeping this institution running effectively and efficiently. So we will try to understand the context in which those recommendations might have been made and if that context fully captures the broader view.

Was there anything you thought was missing from the reports?

IBV: There were things that were missing that we knew would be missing. The task forces looked at a fine level of granularity and they did a great job at precisely what we asked them to do. What they didn’t do, because we didn’t ask them to do it, was to necessarily consider things at a higher level but I was very pleased that they came forward with themes that they saw. For instance, in the support services report, they noted the need to make sure that we had defined minimum levels of service that we would distribute evenly throughout the campus, and themes about support of graduate students. We didn’t ask them to try to put the whole thing together and consider, for example, what the implications are here for change recommended over there, or what are the implications in arts and science, taking our biggest college, if we were to follow all of the recommendations.

So considering all those implications is the next step?

IBV: That’s right. It’s what I talk about as contextualizing on a larger scale.

How would you characterize the feedback you’ve received so far?

IBV: Since the publication of the reports, I have had very little feedback. It’s been much quieter than we anticipated. I have seen some comments on social media, typically directed at a particular unit asking how did this end up there. I have, at the various parties and events I’ve gone to in the last couple of weeks, had people stop me and about the same number said they were pleasantly surprised as those who said they had problems with unit x or unit y.

Any speculation on why the response so far has been muted?

IBV: I think there are a number of things going on. First of all, the reports came out during final exams. We were torn originally about whether to do that but we thought asking people to wait until January would just prolong the anxiety. We talked to the students about it and the students requested that we just put it out once we had it.  Second of all, the fact that there is a distribution of marks rather than a target put on any particular unit has a tendency to force people to actually think about it instead of reacting immediately. There’s a huge amount information in the reports and our community is doing the appropriate thing - thinking about it before responding.

Could the quality of the reports have contributed in any way to the lack of immediate feedback?

IBV: I think that would have had a huge impact, both the fact that the task forces did a huge amount of work, that they did everything they could to avoid bias and that the process was very clean. There was no one involved above the level of department head so there was no one pushing for any kind of reaction.

What do you expect the next period of time, with town halls and other opportunities for people to comment, will be like?

IBV: What we expect is it will vary all over the map. I would expect people associated with units that didn’t fare as well as they expected will react defensively and they will tell us why the data doesn’t tell the whole story or what’s wrong with the data. I’m sure there will be those who attack the entire process, which is also fine. I think what is important is for everyone to remember that the reports are recommendations. What I hope we get out of the listening phase is more information that helps us draw those reports together and understand the context of broader university goals.

From start to finish, TransformUS is a very long process. Do you have any concern about sustaining morale on campus?

IBV: We’re now at the point where, a year ago, we were laying people off; we lost about 250 positions and we were in the middle of it this time last year. We now have TransformUS and continuing anxiety about jobs. It is very tough to sustain good morale on campus when we are in the process of eliminating positions. On the other hand, we have to live within our budget so we had exactly two options - across-the-board cuts which would also have resulted in job elimination or trying to be strategic. We opted to try to be strategic. It will undoubtedly have made the process longer but the outcomes will be better we hope both for the individuals employed here and the university as a whole.

Do you think there are any particular risks to the university’s reputation by going through a process like this?

IBV: Everything we do has an impact on our reputation so the risk to our reputation with TransformUS is that we will be seen as being in worse financial shape than we are. People will read this as “Oh my, they’re clutching at straws, things must be really horrible.” In fact, we have been treated much more generously by the provincial government than our peers and we are being deliberate, not to cope with a current deficit but to avoid one in the future. We are frankly in much better shape than many of our peers and we are taking action now to avoid problems in the future. That’s a nuanced message that’s very hard to get people to hear correctly and I think the actions we’re taking now will be read by some incorrectly as a sign that we are in dire financial straits.

There is also consultation underway on the university new vision document. How do the vision and TransformUS tie together?

IBV: That was one of the reasons why things rolled out the way they did. We put the vision document out at the beginning of October in draft form. I have personally been in front of over 700 people now to talk about it and we also have lots of comments that came in writing. We knew TransformUS would sort of swamp our ability to have conversations internally so we’re consulting externally now. I am very pleased that while there have been truly great suggestions, generally the vision document was very well received. So yes, there will be a new version released, probably some time in the spring so that we can get it to Senate in April, the board in March or May, and to Council in that time period too. But I think the changes will be small enough that having that draft will help us develop the implementation plan for TransformUS. They have to be linked because we can’t be in the position of making changes that will move in directions that are different than where we’re trying to go.

What is the most important message about TransformUS you would like to deliver to the university community?

IBV: What I would say is it’s important that everyone understand that these reports are the end of the first phase, not the end of the process. Everyone should take a deep breath and understand that we’re not taking any action just based on the reports. The consultation will be real, will be meaningful, and we will be looking at implications like if you change a program in college x, what will that mean in unit y. We will be looking at all of that and what people see coming out in the implementation plan will very much reflect comments that are made, cross implications and what we want to be as a university in the future.

From "Transforming the U of S: President talks about TransformUS reports, process," by Colleen MacPherson, On Campus News, January 10, 2014

 


9
January
2014

TransformUS consultation and feedback town hall: January 9, 2014

To view a video version of today's town hall, please click here.


8
January
2014

TransformUS consultation and feedback town hall: January 8, 2014

To view a video version of today’s town hall, please click here.


6
January
2014

Reminder: TransformUS town halls and online feedback

U of S community,

I would like to begin by thanking those of you who have taken a moment to share your feedback and comments regarding the TransformUS task force reports. There are a number of ways to provide feedback up until January 31, 2014, including sharing your comments online or through one of the upcoming town halls that are open to faculty, staff and students:

January 8, 2014
Noon to 1 pm
Convocation Hall

January 9, 2014
Noon to 1 pm
Convocation Hall

January 15, 2014 (students only)
Noon to 1 pm
Graduate Student Commons


If you are unable to join me in-person at a town hall, you can watch live online at transformus.usask.ca. To review the TransformUS task force reports in advance of the town hall, please visit the TransformUS website.

In addition to the feedback options outlined above, Brett Fairbairn, provost and vice-president academic, and Greg Fowler, vice-president finance and resources, have started a new blog on the homepage of the TransformUS website as a place for discussion and updates about the university’s prioritization process. They would like to hear what’s on your mind – questions, ideas and concerns. They hope their blog will encourage a discussion amongst members within and beyond our campus community. I encourage you to visit their blog to be a part of the discussion as the university undergoes this period of change.

Ilene Busch-Vishniac
President


9
December
2013

TransformUS reports now available

Members of the campus community,

The TransformUS task force reports are now available online at transformus.usask.ca, officially concluding the role of the task forces in the TransformUS process. I am impressed, as I am sure you will be, with the time, effort and careful consideration the task forces placed on their role in this process. I cannot thank the members of the task forces enough for their dedication to our university.

Each task force completed its report independently of the other, placing all academic programs and academic and administrative support services into one of five quintiles, ranging from candidate for enhanced resourcing to candidate(s) for phase/phasing out, subject to further review. For a description of the quintiles please see the TransformUS website. The task forces estimate that approximately 60 per cent of programs and services resources have been prioritized in categories that may indicate reduced resources, reconfiguration or elimination. The university requires $20-25 million in permanent savings, or approximately five per cent of our total operating budget from this process to address our projected deficit of $44.5 million by 2016. As such, the task force reports and recommendations are one important element informing the final decisions we make, although not the only element.

Today begins eight weeks of listening, by myself and other senior leaders, to the campus community in the consultation and feedback phase of the process. We encourage you to provide your feedback and reactions to the task force recommendations – information we can use to better inform the decisions we make.

I invite you to join me at one of the following town halls in January to provide your feedback:

January 8, 2014
Noon to 1 pm
Convocation Hall

January 9, 2014
Noon to 1 pm
Convocation Hall

January 15, 2014 (students only)
Noon to 1 pm
Graduate Student Commons

You may also choose to submit your feedback online at transformus.usask.ca. I am counting on the campus community to participate in a way that is respectful of each other, and of varying views and opinions in this phase of the process. I expect some people may wish to submit feedback directly to my office which I welcome, although depending on the amount of feedback received, it may not be possible for me or my staff to respond to every submission.

The consultation and feedback phase will close on January 31, 2014. Following this, I have asked the Provost’s Committee on Integrated Planning (PCIP) to lead the analysis phase and to develop an implementation plan on my behalf. Through this period, PCIP will work closely with unit leaders to ensure we are using all possible resources available to make evidence-informed decisions. At the end of April 2014, the implementation plan, based on input from unit leaders, will be announced to the campus community.

The final phase of the TransformUS initiative, a period of coordinated decisions and actions – will begin on May 1, 2014. Decisions will be implemented through the normal governance processes and will follow processes outlined in university policies, including employment agreements. Following this central coordination process, I anticipate that some decisions will begin in the 2014/15 fiscal year if they are within the decision-making authority of the unit leader, while others may take until the end of this planning cycle - April 2016 - and beyond to be implemented.

Provost Brett Fairbairn, Vice-President Finance and Resources Greg Fowler and I look forward to your feedback in whichever method you choose to provide it. Attached you will find a list of questions we expect you may have. If you have a question that is not addressed, please speak to your dean, associate vice-president, or unit leader, or contact us through usask.ca/finances.

Ilene Busch-Vishniac President

TransformUS_Frequently asked questions.pdf


28
November
2013

TransformUS reports to be released December 9

The U of S campus community,

We are writing today to let the campus community know that the task forces are on schedule to deliver their TransformUS reports to President Busch-Vishniac on the November 30 deadline.

As a reminder, our TransformUS task forces, consisting of faculty, staff and students at a position no higher than a department head or director, are volunteers who were selected through an open, institution-wide nomination process in February. Task force members have put in hundreds of hours of work since March in support of developing two prioritization reports with recommendations for how the university allocates resources to support priorities. Within their reports, academic programs and academic and support services will be placed in to five quintiles:

  1. Candidate for enhanced resourcing
  2. Maintain with current resourcing
  3. Retain with reduced resourcing
  4. Reconfigure for efficiency/effectiveness
  5. Candidate for phase out, subject to further review

Approximately 60 per cent of programs and services will be prioritized in quintiles 3, 4 and 5. We know individuals may have concerns over being placed in these quintiles, and may be anxious over the future of their program or service. We are looking for $20-25 million in permanent savings, or approximately five per cent of our total operating budget. We want to remind you that the task force reports are one element of the process, and further analysis will be undertaken before decisions are made.

Following the receipt of the reports, a three step process will follow to ensure we are carefully considering the task force recommendations, listening to the campus community for their reaction to these recommendations and analyzing the impact recommended changes will have on the university, prior to making decisions.

To recap the TransformUS process, on November 30 the president will receive two reports – one from each task force placing all academic programs and academic and administrative support services into one of five quintiles. We will then take the following steps:

  1. Consultation and feedback: The president will provide the reports to the campus community on December 9, kicking off eight weeks of listening to you, the campus community. Several opportunities will be provided to share your reactions to the reports. We encourage you to take advantage of these opportunities to share your thoughts and concerns.
  2. Analysis and implementation plan: From February to April 2014, the Provost’s Committee on Integrated Planning (PCIP) will work with leaders of the university to analyze all possible decisions and the impact of these decisions on other areas of the university, to ensure we are making evidence-informed decisions. At the conclusion of this phase, an implementation plan will be developed in coordination with unit leaders that will outline decisions and how they will be coordinated and implemented. This plan will be shared with the campus community in late April.
  3. Decisions and action (coordinated):  Decisions will be implemented through the normal governance procedures beginning May 1, 2014. We expect there will be some decisions the university can implement immediately, while others may take until the end of the planning cycle - April 2016 - and beyond to see full implementation.

It is important to remember we are not alone in our financial challenges. Post-secondary institutions across Canada are facing challenges that in most cases are more significant and immediate than ours. We chose a program prioritization process so we could make strategic resource allocation decisions rather than making across-the-board reductions in expenditures. Although we have received questions about the validity of a program prioritization process and the length of time it takes, we believe the information gathered through the entire TransformUS process will allow us to make more informed decisions through a collegial process.

Please watch your email on December 9 for information on accessing the two reports and how you can get involved in the consultation and feedback process.  

Kind regards,

Brett Fairbairn
Provost and Vice-President Academic

Greg Fowler
Vice-President Finance and Resources

 

For more information, visit www.usask.ca/finances and transformus.usask.ca


5
November
2013

TransformUS and town hall update

The U of S campus community,

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 unable to attend, a video version of the town hall in its entirety will be posted online by the end of today at www.usask.ca/finances.

Today’s town hall provided an overview of the process that will follow the receipt of the reports from the TransformUS task forces. Information did not differ from what was communicated by the president in her letter earlier this month. Instead, our focus today was on answering your questions regarding this process and other projects underway.

To recap the TransformUS process, on November 30 the president will receive two reports – one from each task force. These reports will place all programs and services into one of five quintiles, ranging from increased resources to recommended for elimination. The president will provide the reports to the campus community on December 9 which will kick off eight weeks of opportunities for campus community reaction to the reports. From February to April 2014, the Provost’s Committee on Integrated Planning (PCIP) will take the reports and feedback, and meet with leaders to begin to develop an implementation plan. All possible decisions which may form part of this implementation plan will be carefully considered to ensure they are the best decisions for the future of the university. The plan will be shared with the university community in late April and decisions will be implemented through the normal governance procedures beginning May 1, 2014.

Some of you have asked why we aren’t simply executing the recommendations of the task forces. There are three key reasons why we expect to take nearly six months to finalize decisions:

  1. We need to verify that we will achieve our financial goals and therefore the information in the task force reports, based on the templates submitted by individual programs and services, will need to be carefully reviewed to ensure the intended goals can be achieved.
  2. We know there will be more programs/services recommended for decreased or eliminated resources than required to meet our goals. There will also be more recommendations for increased resources than we will be able to support. We want to make sure we are making the right choices on where resource changes are made and we want to minimize negative or unexpected impacts on other programs.
  3. We just can’t do this much all at once. We need a plan and we need this plan to be coordinated with the leaders of your programs/services and our governing bodies.

We know these are challenging times for members of our campus community – our faculty, our staff and our students. This, understandably, is creating anxiety as we take the time to ensure we are making the best decisions to secure the continued financial sustainability and success of our university. We encourage you to continue to ask questions and share your thoughts with us on the process and projects we are undertaking. You can submit these to us online or you can contact the leader of your college, school or unit.

Your best source of information continues to be www.usask.ca/finances for everything related to operating budget adjustments. We also encourage you to visit tranformus.usask.ca for regular updates regarding TransformUS.

We look forward to seeing you at the town halls dedicated to TransformUS that will be hosted by President Busch-Vishniac on January 8 and 9 (open to anyone), as well as one specifically for students on January 15.

Kind regards,

Brett Fairbairn
Provost and Vice-President Academic

Greg Fowler
Vice-President Finance and Resources


4
November
2013

U of S releases 2012/13 financial statements

To all faculty, staff and students,

The University of Saskatchewan released its 2012/13 annual financial report today. As well, we can report that the Saskatchewan Provincial Auditor’s review of the university’s 2012/13 financial statements resulted in a clean audit and no audit recommendations for improvement.

The university reported total revenue of $935.4 million and total expenses of $834.3 million. The net increase in fund balances of $101.1 million largely relates to restricted funds that cannot be used for day-to-day operations. Restricted funds include those used for research, endowments, student financial aid and capital projects. The university’s operating fund also includes restricted revenue targeted to areas such as clinical services and clinical practice in the college of medicine, northern medical services and subsidiary companies such as the Canadian Light Source and the Prairie Swine Centre.

Receiving no audit recommendations is very good, and we are certainly pleased with this result. For the university and its stakeholders, this further underscores that we are fiscally well-managed and our financial statements are sound. A number of indicators of financial health are highlighted in the annual report. Although donation revenue and investment revenue were positive, and significant progress made on major capital projects, we continue to face a projected gap between expenditures and revenues in our operating budget. In 2012, that gap was projected to reach $44.5 million by 2016. We have so far closed one-third of that gap and continue to work on solutions leading to the long-term financial sustainability of our operating budget, and will be sharing our progress in that regard at our financial town hall meeting tomorrow.

The annual financial report is typically tabled in the Saskatchewan legislature before it’s distributed. It was tabled on Oct. 30. The University of Saskatchewan 2012/13 Annual Financial Report is now available at www.usask.ca/reporting.

The report release coincides with our Operating Budget Adjustments Town Hall #6, which is being held Tuesday, November 5, 2013, in Convocation Hall from 12:30 pm – 1:30 pm. During this town hall we will provide an update on budget adjustment initiatives underway, with a focus on TransformUS and the steps that will be taken following the receipt of the prioritization reports from the two task forces. 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 following the presentation.

We look forward to having you join us to be a part of the discussion.

Kind regards,

Brett Fairbairn
Provost and Vice-President Academic

Greg Fowler
Vice-President Finance and Resources

 

To see our 2012/13 annual financial report, go to www.usask.ca/reporting; for more information on operating budget adjustments, visit www.usask.ca/finances.


7
October
2013

Financial town hall - November 5, 2013

To all faculty, staff and students

We would like to invite the campus community to the sixth in a continuing series of financial town hall meetings being held to discuss our progress towards financial sustainability. During this town hall we will provide an update on budget adjustment initiatives underway, with a focus on TransformUS and the steps that will be taken following the receipt of the prioritization reports from the two task forces. There will also be an opportunity for questions and discussion.

Operating Budget Adjustments Financial Town Hall #6
Tuesday, November 5, 2013
12:30-1:30 pm
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, November 4 at noon or tweet your questions to #usaskfinances during the town hall.  

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 8.

We look forward to having you join us to be a part of the discussion.

Kind regards,

Brett Fairbairn
Provost and Vice-President Academic

Greg Fowler
Vice-President Finance and Resources


2
October
2013

TransformUS update: Process and timelines

Fellow Members of the University of Saskatchewan Community:

I am writing to you today to provide an update on TransformUS and the process that will follow the receipt of the final prioritization reports from the Academic and Support Service Transformation Task Forces on November 30, 2013.

To ensure we are making the best decisions for the future of our university, we will follow a three phase process following the receipt of the reports. Attached to this email you will find a diagram outlining the phases of the TransformUS process. The key activities for each of these phases are outlined further below.

Read the full announcement from President Ilene Busch-Vishniac


23
September
2013

Making progress

The following is a letter submitted to The StarPhoenix by Brett Fairbairn, provost and vice-president academic at the University of Saskatchewan and has been reprinted with permission.

Contrary to what's claimed in the letter No cost saving (SP, Sept. 20). the U of S is making solid progress on our finances.

In May 2012, the university projected an operating deficit of $44.5 million by 2016 if no action is taken. Unlike many of our peers across Canada, we have

time to take strategic and informed actions and have identified several strategies that will result in a stronger university.

We have a four-year plan for financial sustainability. In the first year we made a $15 million permanent difference in our budget, closing the projected gap between revenue and expenses by more than one-third. With close to 75 per cent of our operating expenses tied to our workforce, the reorganization of various colleges and units, including eliminating 248 positions, was an important part of our response.

Read the full letter


23
September
2013

TransformUS: Request from the task force

I am writing regarding an emergent and time sensitive situation and with a request. As I do so, I want all of you to know that I am fully committed to an open and transparent process regarding the TransformUS initiative. 

Late Friday afternoon the template submissions for one college's academic and support service programs were posted on a college’s website. The Academic Programs task force co-chairs contacted me shortly thereafter to request that the templates be taken down.

I hope you will know that I fully support the college in sharing this information. The issue is the timing of the posting, and particularly the ability of the task force members, who are already under significant pressure, to complete their work without further distraction. I understand that the experience of the task force to date has caused them to conclude that having the templates before the campus at this time would be a disruptive influence on their work; and that the templates would be more useful information for the campus when paired with the task-force recommendations so that people can see how the information in the templates was used. As a result of additional discussions, the college has removed the materials from its website for now on the understanding that these will be ultimately posted with the final report of the task force.

I am now writing to ask all of you to respect the request of the Academic Programs task force and not to post your submissions at this time. 

Please refer to the finances website at www.usask.ca/finances and the TransformUS website at transformus.usask.ca for regular updates regarding TransformUS. 

Kind regards,

Brett Fairbairn
Provost and Vice-President Academic


6
August
2013

Workforce Planning Update

Since November 2012, administrative and academic leaders have been engaged in workforce planning to identify strategies to reduce or change the workforce in their colleges and units. The collective goal of this work has been to create both immediate as well as long-term savings on the projected budget challenges faced by the University. This update is to acknowledge that all colleges and unit decisions have been made as a result of this challenging work and that the resulting workforce adjustments are now complete. 

While the university’s senior leaders and board of governors agree that this work was necessary to ensure the university’s long term financial sustainability, we feel it is important to signal to you that this is the end of this workforce adjustment process. Since November, approximately 248 vacant and filled positions have been eliminated, some through attrition, resulting in an estimated total permanent budget savings of $8.5 million for the university by 2016.

Unit

Total
Positions

Vacant
Positions

Occupied
Positions

Advancement and Community Engagement

11

4

7

College of Agriculture & Bioresources

5

1

4

College of Arts & Science

10

1

9

Campus Safety

2

1

1

Centre for Continuing and Distance Education

6

3

3

Consumer Services

10

2

8

Corporate Admin (Emma Lake Kenderdine Campus)

2

0

2

College of Dentistry

2

1

1

College of Education

1

0

1

Edwards School of Business

4

0

4

Media Access and Production (eMAP)

5

1

4

College of Engineering

8

4

4

Facilities Management Division

107

21

86

Financial Services Division

10

5

5

Human Resources

8

1

7

Information and Communications Technology

21

0

21

Institutional Planning and Assessment

2

0

2

College of Law

4

0

4

University Library

10

1

9

College of Nursing

3

0

3

College of Pharmacy & Nutrition

1

0

1

President’s Office

1

0

1

Research

5

2

3

Student and Enrolment Services Division

9

1

8

University Learning Centre/Gwenna Moss

1

1

0

Total

248

50

198

Although we are sharing with you the total positions (a combination of full and part-time) eliminated through this process, the changes made in colleges and units were not only focused on job loss, but also on strategic hiring and on reorganization to implement efficiencies.

While the length of time was necessary to undertake these changes and provide support for the people most directly affected by the adjustments, we recognize the extended period of this process has caused uncertainty for employees. We hope that this message signaling the completion of this workforce planning process will help our campus community move forward following these changes.

While some job loss is a normal part of the university's operations, we don’t expect any future campus-wide workforce adjustments to be of this magnitude. Future prioritization and transformation processes will result in additional changes, but it is too soon to know the outcomes of those processes.

Workforce planning at our institution was, by necessity, focused initially on reductions and implementing efficiencies; however, the university’s workforce planning model is not just about reductions. In the longer term, workforce planning as part of each unit’s ongoing processes will lead to other aspects of people strategies like the recruitment and development of our workforce to meet our changing needs. 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. Workforce planning, in these respects, will be part of ongoing people planning by units which is an element of the university’s integrated planning process.

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/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.

Regards,

Barb Daigle, Associate Vice-President Human Resources


15
July
2013

TransformUS: Support service online template

For those who have been identified as an individual who will be completing, reviewing or approving one or multiple TransformUS support service templates, the online version of the template is now available at:

https://share.usask.ca/transformus_survey/SitePages/Home.aspx

Corresponding data worksheets at the 1000 and 5000 level organization code are also now available at the link above.

If you or a member of your team still requires access to the template or if you have any data related questions, please email the data support team at transformus_data@usask.ca.

If requesting access to the template, please include the program name, the individual’s name and NSID, and the role they will have. For example, will the individual be assisting in completing the template or reviewing/approving the template prior to its submission?

If you have a question regarding your support services or the process, please email the Support Service Transformation Task Force co-chairs at Bob.Tyler@usask.ca and/or Kevin.Schneider@usask.ca.

For more information on the templates and additional resources to assist you, please visit the TransformUS website.


8
July
2013

TransformUS: Academic template and information session update

For those who have been identified as an individual who will be completing, reviewing or approving one or multiple TransformUS academic program templates, the online version along with the corresponding data worksheet(s) are now available at:

https://share.usask.ca/transformus_survey/SitePages/Home.aspx

If you or a member of your team still requires access to the template, please email transformus_data@usask.ca and be sure to include the program name, the individual’s name and NSID, and the role they will have. For example, will the individual be assisting in completing the template or reviewing/approving the template prior to its submission?

Please note there have been location changes for the Support Service Transformation Task Force information sessions. These information sessions will be useful to anyone who is completing task force templates or people who may want to know more about the TransformUS process.

Academic Program Transformation Task Force information sessions

  • July 9 from 1:00-2 pm in room Arts 146
  • July 11 from 10:00-11 am in room Arts 241
  • August 6 from 1:00-2 pm in room Arts 241
  • August 8 from 10:00-11 am in room Arts 241

Support Service Transformation Task Force information sessions

  • July 10 from 1-2:30 pm in room Arts 146 (NEW LOCATION)
  • July 16 from 1-2:30 pm in room Arts 241 (NEW LOCATION)
  • July 24 from 10-11:30 am in room Arts 241 (NEW LOCATION)
  • August 7 from 1-2:30 pm in room Arts 241 (NEW LOCATION)

5
July
2013

Academic Template Guidelines Posted

The Academic Template Guidelines have been completed and are available at transformus.usask.ca. The members of the task force request that program leaders read these guidelines carefully to assist in the completion of the Academic Program Transformation Task Force template.


4
July
2013

Information Sessions Scheduled

A number of information sessions have been organized as part of the university’s TransformUS project. These information sessions will be useful to anyone who is completing task force templates or people who may want to know more about the TransformUS process.

Academic Programs Task Force Information Sessions

  • July 9th from 1:00 – 2 pm in room Arts 146
  • July 11th from 10:00 – 11 am in room Arts 241
  • August 6th from 1:00 – 2 pm in room Arts 241
  • August 8th from 10:00 – 11 am in room Arts 241

Support Service Task Force Information Sessions (locations have been updated from original announcement)

  • July 10th from 1- 2:30 pm in room Arts 146
  • July 16th from 1-2:30 pm in room Arts 241
  • July 24th from 10-11:30 am in room Arts 241
  • August 7th from 1-2:30 pm in room Arts 241

 For more information on TransformUS, please see http://www.usask.ca/finances/project_initiatives/transformus


3
July
2013

Academic and Support Services Templates Released

The final version of academic template, the list of academic programs and the scoring rubric, as well as the final version of the support services self-assessment form/template, guide and list are now available. Please note these files are NSID protected. The online version of the templates will be available shortly, as will central data for each unit. Both task forces have released the paper version of the template so that the task of completing the templates may begin.

27
June
2013

FMD - Workforce Planning Update

Colleagues,

The Facilities Management Division (FMD) has taken significant steps to transform the way we provide service to you—our campus community. Plans for change began to take shape as part of our third integrated plan (2012–2016). The university's projected fiscal challenge along with many suggestions and concerns expressed by the campus community, called for both immediate and long-term strategic change in the way FMD serves its customers.

To achieve a transformative change of this magnitude, significant layoffs have occurred over the last three days. Yesterday a number of positions were posted to support our new service delivery models and facilitate movement of some staff to the new positions.

FMD leadership did an intensive review of our current state and began to conceive a preferred future state with a commitment to begin this transformation in July of 2013. Customer service is our primary driver, with stewardship of the university's physical assets a strong complementary goal embedded within the services we provide.

Over the coming months, we are committed to the following changes:

a highly responsive zone service delivery modelcreation of a single cost estimating office the redesign of our current caretaker modela leaner more effective administrative functionsworking toward a redesigned funding model to reduce or eliminate fees charged for many of our services

We are motivated to provide and improve support for the university's academic mission. We expect that over time this transformative work will lead to greater satisfaction with our services and we ask for your support and patience as we transform. 

Please watch for more detailed information in the coming months about how we are advancing as an organization and what your role will be in this unique transformation. 

With best regards,

Colin Tennent
Associate Vice-President, Facilities Management Division & University Architect


20
June
2013

Looking beyond short-term fixes

The following is an opinion editorial submitted to The StarPhoenix by Brett Fairbairn, provost and vice-president academic at the University of Saskatchewan and has been reprinted with permission.

Universities are crucial to society because they drive economies, provide a blanket of career opportunities and are often the locations of important groundbreaking research.

Yet, almost every postsecondary institution across Canada is struggling with significant budget challenges. News reports often mention one university after another dealing with budget deficits of tens of millions, or the need to cut several per cent from their budgets, year after year.

I imagine that many people are asking why is this happening, and what can universities do in this new budget reality?

Read the full opinion editorial


17
June
2013

Thoughts about change in academic institutions

Since he took office as provost and vice-president academic, Brett Fairbairn has made it a point to deliver an annual address to the community, a lecture of sorts that allows him to explore the issues beyond the day-to-day activities of his office or the university as a whole. This year, as an alternative to a presentation in Convocation Hall, the provost sat down for an interview with On Campus News to explore one idea that has been on his mind – universities and the process of change. This is the full version of interview that appeared in abbreviated form in the May 24, 2013 issue of On Campus News.

Read the full interview.


13
June
2013

Follow up from today's town hall

The U of S campus community,

We want to thank those of you who were able to join us, either in person or online, for today’s financial town hall. Those unable to attend can now view a video version of the town hall in its entirety at www.usask.ca/finances.

Today, we provided an overview of year one of operating budget adjustments and then looked at where we are today and where we want to be in 2016. The actions we took in 2012/13 will make a $15.5 million permanent improvement in our budget beginning this year – approximately one-third of our $44.5 million goal. We want to thank the campus community for your role in this process, whether you provided ideas to help drive the strategies we are implementing, stopped doing things to refocus resources or provided support to your colleagues in the face of change.

We are excited about what these changes may mean – strengthening our priorities by putting our resources more squarely behind them, taking our place among the top research-intensive universities in North America and the world.

We want to remind you that www.usask.ca/finances continues to be your best source of information for everything related to operating budget adjustments, and you can continue to submit your questions, rumours and ideas at any time through the contact us section of the website. We also encourage you to visit tranformus.usask.ca for regular updates from the TransformUS Academic Program and Support Service Transformation Task Forces.

Again, we wish to extend our appreciation to the campus community for your ongoing engagement and support throughout the operating budget adjustments process. With your involvement, we are confident the university will reach the goal of continued financial sustainability in a changing post-secondary environment by 2016.

Kind regards,

Brett Fairbairn

Provost and Vice-President Academic

Greg Fowler

Vice-President Finance and Resources


13
June
2013

Operating budget 2013-14: making deliberate, realistic choices

As operating budgets go, the university’s 2013-14 one was a challenge to prepare but in the end, there is some comfort going into the new fiscal year.

Piya Sen, director of budget and special projects in the Financial Services Division, said it took some time “to harness everything that is going on within the university and boil down into reasonable projections in the budget.” Those projections include revenue of almost $468 million and expenses of just over $471 million, leaving a deficit of $3.25 million for the year.

The Board of Governors approved the budget May 9.

Sen said it is important to keep in mind that the budget numbers are a “best guess.” As efforts are made to reduce the university’s operating budget through initiatives like workforce planning, those savings will play a part in whittling down the deficit. “We know what actions are underway even though at this point, we can’t cost them out with complete accuracy,” she said. Savings might also come in areas like utility costs “but we can’t predict the weather.

“In the absolute, we know that $3 million is a lot of money but relative to the whole operating budget, it’s 0.7 per cent. We could have made choices that would have eliminated the deficit but what we chose to be was realistic and deliberate, recognizing the efforts that are underway to address a much larger deficit projected for 2015-16.”

In addition, the board maintains an operating reserve that could be used to deal with any small deficit that remains at the end of the 2013-14 fiscal year.

Without the efforts already underway, she said, the deficit would have been much higher. The two most significant are about $10 million in completed permanent budget reductions including workforce changes, and a deferral of $2 million in spending on the RenewUs infrastructure renewal project.

“Our goal is to put $5 million every year into RenewUS,” Sen said, “but at this early stage, that money is not yet critical so $3 million was appropriate for this year.” She stressed the term deferral was chosen carefully “because we fully intend to reach to the $5 million mark in subsequent years.”

Looking at the approved budget, the university’s projected revenue is up almost five per cent over the previous year, due to both an increase in provincial funding and a jump in tuition revenue. Sen said the tuition revenue increase is a combination of higher tuition rates and additional students attending the U of S.

The operating budget revenue is only about half of the total money the university receives in a year. The remainder comes in the form of funding for specific purposes like capital and research.

On the expense side, the cost of salaries and benefits are expected to climb by 1.66 per cent, to $304 million across all employee groups.

The Board of Governors will consider the university annual capital plan at its June meeting.

More detailed information about the 2013-14 operating budget can be found on the university’s finances webpage.

From "Operating budget 2013-14: making deliberate, realistic choices," by Colleen MacPherson, On Campus News, May 24, 2013

 


13
June
2013

Budget adjustment update

The two highest profile initiatives in the university’s multi-faceted operating budget adjustment (OBA) project are moving forward apace and other efforts to address a projected deficit will soon be gaining both visibility and momentum.

The effort to prioritize academic programs and support services across campus—called TransformUS—is about four months into its 11-month mandate, said Pauline Melis, assistant provost of institutional planning and assessment, and its two task forces are making good progress. Both are in the process of presenting lists of academic programs and support functions that will be evaluated against recently publicized criteria, she said. Along with the list will be the form the groups will use to collect the program and service information needed for the prioritization process.

“Both the lists and the template will be released shortly,” said Melis. “The next big element will be piloting the template with select groups. Once it’s launched to the general community, then the really big job for the task forces is the evaluation itself. It’s taken a bit longer than I would have liked to get the templates ready but I expect they’ll be out soon.”

Melis, whose office of Institutional Planning and Assessment is directing the overall OBA project, said the summer months will be spent collecting information that will ultimately lead to recommendations from the task forces about which programs and services should be maintained, which require more resources and which it suggests be eliminated. The task force reports are due in the Office of the President on Nov. 30.

“What’s occupying my time right now is considering what happens when the final reports are submitted,” Melis said. “What is the timeframe for decisions? Who is going to make those decisions? We want a process that will be led by the president and the provost, and which will also involve Council, the Board of Governors and unit leaders from across campus.”

Melis said her office and others involved in OBA hope to have all preliminary decisions about the fate of programs and services made within three months of receipt of the task force recommendations.

A second major under taking is workforce planning, which is being led by the Human Resources Division. That effort, to reduce salary and benefit costs and ensure jobs at the U of S are strategically aligned with institutional priorities, is coming to the end of its second phase, said Melis. So far, the savings achieved through workforce adjustments are pegged at about $6.3 million.

At the end of phase two, likely in June, “we hope workforce planning will turn into an ongoing people planning process” whereby every job to be filled is carefully considered along with what kind of staff complement we need to support our mission as a university.”

With Transform US and workforce planning underway, attention will turn to five other areas of potential budget savings, all of which were generated by suggestions submitted by employees when the budget adjustment project was first announced. Melis said obvious themes emerged when the suggestions were considered and those themes form the basis of additional projects.

“Where we’re going next we think is exploring the theme of maximizing the value of the university spend,” ensuring the U of S uses its spending power to generate savings and discounts. Some work in this area, like a new institution-wide travel booking process, is already in place.

Another theme is total compensation and rewards, which Melis said requires “a very deep conversation with the Board of Governors.”

A number of ideas were grouped into the theme of reducing the university’s footprint. In addition to all suggestions related to sustainability, “we’re looking at things like reducing space and lease costs in order to generate savings.”

Revenue generation is another OBA theme “and here we’re looking at ways to amplify the operating budget.” One example is taking steps to retain more students between first and second year, which Melis said could, with the right retention strategies in place, realize about $3 million in additional annual revenue.

The final theme gleaned from OBA suggestions is organizational design. Melis expects the initial focus will be on optimizing administrative work common to both central and distributed operations. Some organizational design changes may result from TransformUS, she added.

Taken together, the various approaches to trimming expenses and boosting revenue in the university’s annual operating budget “are a huge undertaking. We’ve got lots of parts of the university working on this but we can’t do it all at once so the themes will roll out at various times and at various speeds.”

From "Budget adjustment update," by Colleen MacPherson, On Campus News, May 24, 2013


5
June
2013

Reminder – Submit your TransformUS template feedback

To all faculty, staff and students,

We would like to thank those who attended the town halls we hosted on May 23 (Academic Program Transformation Task Force) and May 30 (Support Service Transformation Task Force) to view the draft TransformUS templates and to provide feedback. The templates, once finalized, will allow academic and administrative units to submit information in relation to the criteria being used to prioritize all academic programs and support services at the University of Saskatchewan.

To those who still wish to provide feedback on either or both of the draft templates, we ask that you do so prior to the end of the day Friday, June 7, 2013. Based on your feedback and what we learn from our pilot trials of the templates, our task forces will finalize the templates with the intent to provide final versions to the campus community by the end of June.

To provide feedback, please click on the appropriate link below (NSID protected) and leave a comment on the blog post:

Academic Program Transformation Task Force template
Support Service Transformation Task Force template

We also invite you to visit transformus.usask.ca weekly to receive updates on our progress.

Thank you again for your involvement in this process. We sincerely appreciate your feedback and support.

The Academic and Support Service Transformation Task Forces


27
May
2013

TransformUS town hall - Support service template

The Support Service Transformation Task Force would like to invite the campus community to a town hall where a draft version of the support service prioritization template will be presented.

TransformUS town hall: Support service template
Thursday, May 30, 2013
1:00 pm – 2:00 pm
Arts 241 (Neatby Timlin)

This template, once finalized, will allow academic and administrative units to submit information in relation to the criteria being used to prioritize all support services 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.

For more information on TransformUS, please visit transformus.usask.ca.


16
May
2013

TransformUS town hall - Academic program template

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.

For more information on TransformUS, please visit transformus.usask.ca.


15
May
2013

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

 


10
May
2013

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 and schools.

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


9
May
2013

2013-14 Operating Budget Approved

Colleagues,

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 operations.

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.

For more information, refer to the 2013-14 Operating Budget Summary.

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.

Kind regards,

Brett Fairbairn
Provost and Vice-President Academic

Greg Fowler
Acting Vice-President Finance and Resources


1
May
2013

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.

Kind regards,

Brett Fairbairn, Provost and Vice-President Academic

Greg Fowler, Acting Vice-President Finance and Resources


1
May
2013

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. 


26
April
2013

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


3
April
2013

2013-14 Provincial Funding - Detailed Overview

Colleagues,

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:

Operating grant

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.

Targeted funding

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.

Capital funding

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.

Other funding

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.

Kind regards,

Brett Fairbairn
Provost and Vice-President Academic

Greg Fowler
Acting Vice-President Finance and Resources


1
April
2013

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. 

Read the full announcement from Provost Brett Fairbairn and Acting Vice-President Finance and Resources Greg Fowler.


28
March
2013

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


28
March
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


25
March
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.

Sincerely,

Barb Daigle, AVP Human Resources

 


20
March
2013

Provincial Budget Announcement

Colleagues,

Today, the 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 year.

The province 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 Retention Program.

While the 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.

The federal 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.

Our next 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.

As always, the latest information about the university’s finances can be found at www.usask.ca/finances

Kind regards,

Brett Fairbairn
Provost and Vice-President Academic

Greg Fowler
Acting Vice-President Finance and Resources

For more information, contact the Provost’s Office at 966-8484.


15
March
2013

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.

Visit the TransformUS site for a list of all task force members.

From "TransformUS work begins," by Colleen MacPherson, On Campus News, March 15, 2013


14
March
2013

2013-14 Tuition Rates Approved

U of S students, faculty and staff,

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.

For more detailed information on the approved rates, please visit www.usask.ca/tuition. For a broader picture of our financial situation, visit www.usask.ca/finances.

Kind regards,

Brett Fairbairn

Provost and Vice-President Academic


13
March
2013

The Effects of Freezing Administrative Salaries

I see that the University of Regina council has voted to freeze both administrative salaries and the growth of administrative positions, a recurrence of an ongoing meme which blames those hated administrators for the rising cost of education.  Because Regina’s administrative practices are relatively typical of Canadian universities, I thought I would test-drive this idea: how much have administrative salaries increased, and how much wiggle room would such a freeze provide?

(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.

Posted on Higher Education Strategy Associates  by Alex Usher

5
March
2013

TransformUS task force membership announced

To all faculty, staff and students,

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.

Read the full announcement from President Busch-Vishniac.

 


01
March
2013

Questions probe budget initiatives

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 university priorities.

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 and services.

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 reduction target.

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 long-term strategy.”

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 education.”

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 labour legislation.

From "Questions probe budget initiatives," by Colleen MacPherson, On Campus News, Mar. 1, 2013

http://news.usask.ca/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/2013-03-01_FINAL_web.pdf


26
January
2012

Town hall follow up

The U of S campus community,

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.

We want to remind you that www.usask.ca/finances is your best source of information for everything relating to operating budget adjustments. Here you will find key resources such as progress updates, information on university finances, responses to common rumours, media stories,  and information specific to key initiatives, such as workforce planning and TransformUS. You can also continue to submit your questions, rumours and ideas through the contact us section of the website.

We appreciate your ongoing engagement and support as we work through our challenges as a united campus community.

Kind regards,

Brett Fairbairn
Provost and Vice-President Academic

Greg Fowler
Acting Vice-President Finance and Resources

Town hall handout


14
February
2013

Workforce Planning update

Colleagues,

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.

Sincerely,

Barb Daigle
Associate Vice-President, Human Resources


8
February
2012

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


7
February
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.

Kind regards,

Brett Fairbairn
Provost and Vice-President Academic

Greg Fowler
Acting Vice-President Finance and Resources


28
January
2012

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.  


25
January
2013

Council approves program prioritization in principle

Dear Colleagues,

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.

For more information and updates on operating budget adjustments, please visit www.usask.ca/finances, or visit the TransformUS page for updates specific to this initiative.

Sincerely,

Brett Fairbairn, Provost and Vice-President Academic

Jay Kalra, Chair, University Council


17
January
2013

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.

Read the full update from provost and vice-president academic, Brett Fairbairn, and acting vice-president finance and resources, Greg Fowler.

 


17
January
2013

Message from President Ilene Busch-Vishniac

To all students, faculty and staff,

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 resources.

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 do. 

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



14
January
2013

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 finances@usask.ca.

Sincerely,

Barb Daigle
Associate Vice-President, Human Resources

Resources:

Letter to faculty and staff from Barb Daigle, Associate Vice-President, Human Resources
Letter to all students from Barb Daigle, Associate Vice-President, Human Resources

 


11
January
2013

Eliminating travel 'pain point' – Online tool improves booking, expense processes

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


11
January
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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Sincerely,

Ilene Busch-Vishniac, President


7
December
2012

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.

 “We’re 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 team.”

The 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.

The 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.

The 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. 

Parkinson 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 time.

The 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.”

He 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


23
November
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


23
November
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


19
November
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.

Kind regards,

Brett Fairbairn
Provost and Vice-President Academic

Greg Fowler
Acting Vice-President Finance and Resources


15
November
2012

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 finances@usask.ca, or you may choose to bring your questions to the financial town hall on November 20 at 12 pm in Convocation Hall.

Kind regards,

Brett Fairbairn
Provost and Vice-President Academic

Greg Fowler
Acting Vice-President Finance and Resources

Learn more about the history of the Emma Lake Kenderdine Campus


9
November
2012

Audience questions on town hall agenda

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

http://news.usask.ca/2012/11/09/audience-questions-on-town-hall-agenda


1
November
2012

Operational Budget Adjustments - Advice and Expectations

Members of the University of Saskatchewan community,

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. To 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 help ensure jobs 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 you:

  • 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 budget over the 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 of 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 updates provided through On Campus News and On Campus Now, and visit www.usask.ca/finances regularly. Plan to attend the financial town 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 for a year or two to focus on the essential? Send your ideas and suggestions to finances@usask.ca. 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 make things better for one unit or activity and worse for another, or that result in duplication of functions, will make us all poorer.

Our university has chosen an approach of deliberate, iterative and permanent change.  Deliberate means decisions will be based on evidence and analysis beyond simple financial expediency. Iterative means that our budget challenges will be addressed by a variety of measures over the 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, we will be stronger in what we do and 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 and 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 focus on the areas we have identified together as the most important in the Third Integrated Plan. We appreciate your ongoing support and involvement.

Kind regards,

Brett Fairbairn
Provost and Vice-President Academic                               

Greg Fowler
Acting Vice-President, Finance and Resources


26
October
2012

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


25
October
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.

Kind regards,

Brett Fairbairn
Provost and Vice-President Academic

Greg Fowler
Acting Vice-President Finance and Resources


19
October
2012

Workforce planning explained

On Campus News sat down with U of S AVP Human Resources, Barb Daigle, to talk about workforce planning.


12
October
2012

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

http://news.usask.ca/2012/10/16/ensuring-jobs-align-with-university-priorities/


12
October
2012

Contingencies

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

http://news.usask.ca/2012/10/15/college-unit-contingencies-needed-for-budget-adjustments/


28
September
2012

September 28th, 2012 - Memo

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.

Read more


20
September
2012

Provost and Vice-President Academic Brett Fairbairn on Budget Adjustments




11
September
2012

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: 

  1. Alignment - be aligned with the university’s vision as expressed in the Strategic Directions, Foundational Documents and integrated plan.
  2. Comprehensiveness - take a holistic view of the university and all of its resources, including the opportunity to collaborate internally and with external partners.
  3. Sustainability - look for long-term, sustainable, operating budget leading to a more efficient, innovative and responsive university.
  4. Transparency - be transparent with respect to process and criteria, integrative and consultative.
  5. Respectfulness - treat individuals with respect and dignity.
  6. Evidence-informed - base decision-making on defined criteria.
  7. 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.
  8. Accountability - be informed and guided by the recommendations of institutional leadership, leading practice, and evidence.
  9. Consultation - take action consistent with existing governance mechanisms, established policies and processes, including the principle of subsidiarity.
  10. Timeliness - decisions will be made in a timely fashion. 

Read more


28
June
2012

TABBS budget system explained




15
June
2012

Steering Committee Announced

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 effectively co-ordinated.

Read more here


16
May
2012

May 16 Town Hall

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. 

Read the rest of the memo here

Town hall presentation


16
May
2012

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.

http://www.usask.ca/fsd/resources/documents/budgeting/2012-13_operating_budget_summary.pdf


2
May
2012

May 2nd Memo

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. 

Read the rest of the memo here


3
April
2012

April 3rd Town Hall