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Message from President David T. Barnard on operating grant

UM receives operating grant letter from Province of Manitoba

May 28, 2020 — 

A message from UM President and Vice-Chancellor Dr. David Barnard:

Throughout my twelve years as President of the University of Manitoba, I have continually been inspired by the resilience of this institution – the resilience of our faculty, staff and students. My time as President has seen research breakthroughs, innovative growth, apologies and progress, as well as challenges, disagreements and disruptions. Whatever we have faced, we have faced it together, united by our commitment to our mission, vision and values.

In March, confronted with a global pandemic, we entered into perhaps the most challenging chapter of our story so far. The level of disruption to our work has been unprecedented, and the lack of clarity has caused angst and anxiety for our university community.

A significant contributor to that uncertainty resulted from direction we received from the provincial government to find savings at our institution to support frontline services. This conversation began on April 14 with a request from the Province for all public sector institutions to present plans of immediate savings of 10, 20 and 30 per cent. This was a challenging exercise, but UM presented a plan to the Province as requested and waited for feedback.

The period of uncertainty while we waited for clarification from our largest funder has been challenging. During that time, many units have moved forward with temporary staff reductions in response to work shortages and based on the expectation of a reduced operating grant.

We respect that this has been a challenging time for everyone in Manitoba, including for our government. We have appreciated the frequent updates from Minister Eichler and Department officials as pieces of information have become available. We understand that the conversation has been evolving rapidly. We are thankful now to have additional information to share with our community on our 2020/21 operating grant.

On Monday, May 25, 2020, the University of Manitoba received our annual operating grant letter from the Province of Manitoba confirming a five per cent reduction ($17.23 million) to our provincial operating grant funding. As I shared with you on May 13, we were expecting a permanent one per cent cut to our operating grant and a one-year cut of four per cent. The letter did not layout the reduction in this way; the letter speaks to our funding allocation for this year alone. Additionally, what we were not expecting was that the letter announced the creation of a one-time Transitional Support Fund to help offset the impact of these reductions. The Province has allowed for up to $17.23 million to the University of Manitoba through this fund with the requirement that we submit proposals to the Province for approval. The funding is available for specific purposes: to support costs associated with orienting programs towards labour-market demands, ensuring high quality education through new and enhanced online materials and tools, and/or addressing unanticipated changes in enrollment and other challenges due to coronavirus. The allocation is not guaranteed.

What does this mean? Our guaranteed provincial operating grant for 2020/21 has been reduced by five per cent, however, the potential provincial operating grant available to us, with conditions, is equal to our 2019/20 operating grant. We have been asked to continue working with the Department of Economic Development and Training to provide proposals for the funds by September 15, 2020.

Ultimately, this means that we do not have certainty on the total amount of operating grant funding we will receive from the Province in 2020/21. As well, we know the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in work disruptions, revenue losses, and increased costs. Going forward, we should expect that budget reductions will be required, and we will continue to review how best to address these challenges.

The University of Manitoba appreciates ongoing investments in the critical work we do to support student success, recognizing that our commitments to excellence in teaching and research are crucial to Manitoba’s economic and social prosperity. Government and the University of Manitoba are aligned in our desire to ensure UM graduates are prepared to make robust contributions in our changing economy.

Certainly, UM has already demonstrated our commitment to meet labour-market demands and we continue to advance industry-academia partnerships throughout the institution. Our faculty members, and our Centre for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning, have done an outstanding job creating new and enhanced online materials and are continuing to do so for the fall term. We know that a university education provides graduates with the problem-solving, leadership, communication and collaborative skills that best prepare them to lead and thrive in a post-covid world.

As we work together to address the challenges presented to us by COVID-19, I am certain that our resilience will, once again, see us through and that we will continue to demonstrate our unmatched contributions to this province and its people.

Sincerely,
David

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