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University of Victoria cutting budget by $13M

Cut represents 4% of total operating budget. Staff reductions are expected.
Students move through campus past the Mearns Centre for Learning-McPherson Library at the University of Victoria on Sept. 26, 2023. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

The University of Victoria says it is cutting its operating budget by four per cent, which translates to $13 million, to address declining revenue as international enrolment continues to drop.

The university said reducing its staff will be necessary due to the size of the budget cut, but it will work with unions to minimize involuntary layoffs.

UVic does not plan to raise tuition to offset its revenue shortfall.

International undergraduate enrolment is the lowest it has been in more than 10 years, comprising just 11 per cent of overall enrolment, UVic said in a statement to faculty, librarians and other staff posted to its website Wednesday. The university previously said it’s forecasting 1,587 international undergraduate students for the 2023-24 school year, down from 2,573 in 2019-2020.

International student enrolment declined during the pandemic and has not rebounded since, the university said. Fewer international students, particularly from China and India, are choosing to study in Canada. The drop in international students is a significant hit to the university’s budget because international tuition is not subsidized by the provincial government as domestic tuition is, it said.

“We recognize it will be difficult for staff and faculty to learn that reductions are coming this year, especially after UVic went through a budget reduction in 2023-24,” the university said.

While the overall reduction to the operating budget will total four per cent, departments will face different reductions based on decisions by the university’s vice-presidents. It’s a different approach to last year, when the university brought in an across-the-board four per cent reduction.

The university’s vice-presidents will lead a process to determine what reduction each department will face to balance the budget. Senior university leaders will make specific decisions on budget reductions in their own departments.

Some areas will not face reductions, including scholarships, bursaries and fellowships, the Student Wellness Centre, the Centre for Accessible Learning, faculty research grants and the vice-president Indigenous portfolio.

The university will share specifics about the reduction process after vice-presidents have met with senior leaders to make budget decisions, which it expects to have completed by April or May, it said.

Steady enrolment is essential to the university’s financial sustainability, and leaders across the university are discussing strategies to strengthen enrolment and diversify income, it said.

The provincial government does not allow universities to run a deficit, and UVic said it expects other universities are facing similar budget constraints.

UVic is responding to the decline in international students with international recruitment strategies, marketing itself in upscale hotels in Southeast Asia and at college fairs in the United States.

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