Letter to the Community re: Budget

To The UBC Community:

With the 2014-15 UBC budget now approved by the Board of Governors, I wanted to provide my annual update on the financial context and outlook of the University.

The University continues to operate in a challenging economic environment.  Provincial operating cuts combined with the cap on domestic tuition are putting great pressure on all BC universities.  At the same time, the expectations placed on universities to prepare students for an increasingly complex world, while driving economic and social innovation through knowledge dissemination, and industry and civil society engagement, have never been greater.

In this context, the University is continuing its two-prong strategy:
•    Strive for operating excellence while diversifying revenues.   Two examples of the many initiatives underway include increasing summer activities from teaching and conferences, which contributed $700,000 in net new revenues last year; and the new Bachelor of International Economics program which is off to a remarkable start, having received 685 applications for the first cohort of 80.
•    Deliberately invest in the learning experience while making both campuses a distinctive “place” students and researchers are drawn to.  As a result, by Fall 2014, at least 10,000 undergraduate students will have taken or will be taking at least one course transformed by our Flexible Learning initiative, and the Vancouver Housing Action plan will deliver the first restricted ownership units for eligible faculty members this summer.

At the federal level, I was extremely pleased by the announcement of a new program of research support – the Canada First Research Excellence Fund.  Over the next few years, as the fund is fully implemented, UBC stands to benefit greatly from new resources to support our very best research areas, stronger international research collaboration and improved knowledge translation.

Key metrics demonstrate the remarkable academic and operating success of our university despite the fiscal environment.  With over 3 applications for every seat funded by the government, the University has never been more sought after by students.  Graduation outcomes are strong, with 93% of our students employed after 2 years and 96% after 5 years, the vast majority in positions related to their academic experience.  On the research side, the University attracted $519 million in public, foundation and industry funding though 1,100 partnerships, a remarkable return on the $46 million of research funding invested by the Province.  The support from our alumni and donors reached a new record with over $1.3 billion donated to projects across UBC in the start an evolution campaign.

Yet eroding public funding continues to present very serious pressures:
•    Buildings and their maintenance remain significantly underfunded, and some  classroom infrastructure is not adapted to current curricular needs;
•    Several information and learning management systems must be renewed and our faculty need better support as we implement more “flexible learning” initiatives;
•    Student services are over-subscribed, in terms of wellbeing programs, international student support, counselling, health and disability services, graduate student support and undergraduate professional skill development; and in some areas, tuition does not support the desired level of experiential learning.

While the University continues to engage with government to address these issues, we must continue to innovate and build on our strengths to take advantage of new opportunities.  As an example, there are several exciting initiatives underway to expand professional masters and continuing professional education.  I encourage you to continue to seek more effective ways to deliver on our mission and to show creativity in developing new programs of study and research that can help support our academic mandate.

I invite you to access all budgets documents available online, and I thank you once again for your extraordinary contributions to this great University.

Stephen J. Toope
President and Vice-Chancellor