Union worries staff cuts likely as University of Regina looks to slash budgets
The union representing faculty at the University of Regina is sounding the alarm over impending budget cuts at the institution.
"The overall financial picture of the university is not great, and as a result individual faculties and units have been instructed to cut their budgets," said Britt Hall, president of the University of Regina Faculty Association (URFA) in an interview on Friday.
URFA represents more than 1,500 employees, including faculty, sessional lecturers, instructors as well as administrative and professional staff.
Hall says while the cuts could play out differently across the university's faculties, it likely means a reduction in sessional lecturers as well as a decision to not hire replacement staff as they retire.
The university has been encouraging early retirement to faculty members, she says.
"As long as the rules [in our collective agreements] are being followed, at this point we, basically, don't have much that we can do to control how … those budget cuts are made," Hall said.
That will likely mean a heavier workload for those remaining at the university.
On Friday, a university spokesperson said in a statement that it has requested its faculties and administrative units to reduce budgets by five to seven per cent.
The spokesperson said those changes could include "potential adjustments to both salary and non-salary expenditures."
The spokesperson pointed to high inflation and declining enrolment as the reason for the budgetary issues,
"Visa-processing delays prevented many international students from coming here. This semester alone, 150 international undergrads were unable to attend our institution," the statement reads.
The university did not provide details on its current financial situation.
However, the university's 2022 annual report found that the 2021-2022 fiscal year "posed a variety of challenges for the university," and brought with it $15.3 million deficit.
Despite a return to in-person operations and fully resuming face-to-face classes in March 1, 2022, many of the challenges were the result of a second consecutive year of the COVID-19 pandemic, the report says.
That includes a 14-per-cent decline in international student enrolment due to international travel restrictions and visa processing.
Tuition for international students is higher than domestic students pay. That group saw a four per cent drop in enrolment and "ended a strong of 12 consecutive years of enrolment growth."
In the report, the university refers to a plan to develop a balanced budget for the coming fiscal year, and says "all avenues of generating revenue and reducing costs are being considered."
The University of Regina's 2023-2024 budget is still being developed and it will be considered by the school's board of governors in April.