On April 23, Western's Board of Governors approved the 2015-16 University Budget - which takes us to the first year of a new four-year planning period. I am writing to provide you with the context for planning and budgeting at Western and a summary of the recommendations in the Budget.
To start with, our planning process and resource allocation recommendations are guided by our Strategic Plan - Achieving Excellence on the World Stage. From an operational perspective, supporting the academic enterprise to the maximum extent is at the heart of planning and budgeting at Western.
The external context - as we move forward into the new four-year cycle - is an environment of constrained revenue growth, in addition to a number of future uncertainties:
- Grant funding to universities (including Western) is being reduced in small pieces - a process which started three years ago.
- The provincial government has begun the process of reviewing the University funding systems - and the outcomes of that review may impact our operating grants.
- The current tuition framework ends with 2016-17. Tuition fees now comprise about 45% of our operating revenues - and therefore, this source of revenue will have a direct impact on our ability to maintain and enhance the quality of education we offer our students.
- The Province's debt/deficit continue at high levels - and the Provincial budgets in the coming years could impact our overall resource levels.
Internally, our parameters for the upcoming planning period include the following elements:
- As noted above, our Strategic Plan and need to focus on our academic aspirations guide our resource allocation recommendations.
- Our undergraduate enrolment planning is based on a first-year class size in the range of 5,000 to 5,100 - of which, we are aiming for 600 international students.
- The graduate enrolment plans are those that have come directly from the Faculties - and modest growth is projected over the next four years.
- Overall, on the enrolment front, we continue to attract outstanding students - both at the undergraduate and graduate levels - and we are confident of achieving our enrolment plans.
With the above background/context, a high-level summary of the 2015-16 University Operating Budget is as follows:
- Operating Revenue Forecast: $693.2 million (an increase of 1.6%)
- Projected/Planned Expenditures: $692.9 million (an increase of 0.4%)
- Projected Operating Reserve: $34.0 million (projected to be $6 million at the end of four years)
Distribution of 2015-16 Revenues
- Government Grants: $279.7 million (40.3% of total)
- Tuition Fees: $323.3 million (46.7% of total)
- All Other Revenues: $99.2 million (13.0% of total)
- Total: $693.2 million
Distribution of Expenditures
- Faculties: $449.7 million** (64.9% of total)
- Student Financial Support: $30.1 million (4.3% of total)
- Support Units: $91.2 million (13.2% of total)
- University-wide Expenditures: $71.6 million (10.3% of total)
- All Other - including One-Time: $50.3 million (7.3% of total)
- Total: $692.9 million
** Includes an estimated $56 million for graduate student support
The one-time expenditures in this budget include the following high-priority initiatives in support of our Strategic Plan:
- $10 million in support of upcoming projects in our Long-Range Space Plan - which include the new Faculty of Information & Media Studies/Nursing Academic Building, University College Modernization, an Interdisciplinary Research Building, and the modernization of Thames Hall.
- $7.5 million to augment our Endowed Chairs Matching Program.
- $4.0 million (in previously-committed funds) to support the next round of Interdisciplinary Initiatives.
- $1.5 million in support of Energy Conservation Initiatives across campus.
As I mention above, supporting our academic enterprise is our highest priority. The commitment to this priority is demonstrated by the following indicators:
- Financial data available through the Council of Ontario Universities (COU) show that Western spends a larger portion of its operating budget on instruction and research than any other Ontario university. In 2013-14, Western spent 64% in this category, while the Ontario average is 58%.
- Western's full-time student to full-time faculty ratio is substantially lower than those at comparable Ontario research-intensive universities. In 2014-15, Western's ratio was 21.7, while that ratio at the other institutions range from 25.8 to 29.6.
- Western's funding (base budget plus revenue sharing allocations) to Faculties has increased from $288 million in 2010-11 to $323 million in 2014-15 - an increase of over 12%.
Our objective to continue improving Western's academic standing will be our aim - as we move forward into a period of constrained revenues and an increasingly competitive environment. Therefore, as we head into challenging times, through our strategic investments we are supporting our academic priorities and addressing our greatest challenges head-on. We are dedicated to continuing this momentum in the best interest of our students, faculty, and staff.