Published by Communications and Public Affairs (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338
May 11, 2005
U of G Welcomes Ontario Budget
Post-secondary education was front and centre in the provincial budget released today, with the government announcing significant new investments in accessibility and quality.
“This is very good news for students and the university sector,” said University of Guelph president Alastair Summerlee. “We all firmly believe that the future of the province and the country is linked to the future of our students, and today’s announcements provide an important sense of commitment from the provincial government.”
Summerlee said he’s pleased that the government recognized the need for multi-year investments for post-secondary education as recommended by Bob Rae. In his report on Ontario’s higher education system, Rae said operating grants to Ontario’s universities and colleges should be increased by at least $1.3 billion by 2007/2008 to maintain quality and improve accessibility. Rae’s recommendations received strong support from U of G faculty, students, staff, alumni and friends and members of the City of Guelph community. In its budget, the government promised $1.2 billion in new funding over five years.
The government also committed funding for graduate student support and research chairs, and outlined new requirements for public accountability. “We are very pleased to see that the budget also includes many of the recommendations made by U of G’s Presidential Task Force on Accessibility, including providing upfront grants and improving accessibility for first-generation, disabled, aboriginal and francophone university students,” Summerlee said.
It was also announced that a special $3-million endowment has been created to fund a chair in agricultural research at U of G. “We welcome this new investment, as the commitment of the provincial government to agriculture is vital to Ontario,” said Alan Wildeman, vice-president (research).
Summerlee added that the university’s budget included an estimated amount for increased investment by the government. “At this stage, we continue to believe that our budget is based on the right assumptions, but we will have to wait for further clarification from the ministry before the final projections can be determined.”
As always, it will likely be several months before the allocation of funds to universities, and to U of G in particular, is known. In addition, a significant portion of new funds announced in the budget are targeted, meaning that in order to access the money, the university would have to invest in new programs that would qualify for support.
Summerlee added that this confirms U of G’s earlier decision to move forward with its budget planning, and the university will continue with the plans laid out in the operating budget that was approved by the Board of Governors in April.
Maureen Mancuso, provost and vice-president (academic), said the reallocation of resources as outlined in the university budget will be difficult. “Deciding among priorities is a constant challenge,” she said. “The government’s commitment to multi-year funding and new multi-year public accountability requirements are consistent with our need to undertake integrated planning.”
Summerlee acknowledged the concerns about the impact of budget cutbacks, but said a significant number of faculty and staff have opted for voluntary early retirement, so the number of redundancies is fewer than expected. More details will be available in the coming weeks.
He added it’s a challenge to deal with budget reallocations while continuing with programs to modernize campus facilities. “I realize that it’s sometimes difficult to understand the need to deal with cutbacks so we can balance the operating budget when we continue to build and renovate, undertake energy retrofits and carry out deferred maintenance.”
In keeping with standard practice, U of G's budget will be reviewed again once the university receives confirmation of its final operating budget and its enrolment numbers.
For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, (519) 824-4120, Ext. 53338, or Rebecca Kendall, (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982.
The Council of Ontario Universities has also issued a news release on the provincial budget.