April 25, 2006      
Investing in Bishop's

The topic of our deficit and funding problems in general have been a common theme on campus over the past year. There was some hope that the Provincial budget would be kind to higher education but, as you are well aware, Quebec universities were virtually ignored in March’s Provincial budget. Quebec universities continue to face underfunding of at least $375 million each year. For Bishop’s that represents $3.75 million per year. Despite our best efforts to balance the budget, Bishop’s will run a structural deficit this year, and for the next few years.

The University is not standing still. We continue to pay close attention to our expenditures, but we must also pursue an agenda of transformation. At the March meeting of the Finance Committee (of Corporation) a request by the Senate Planning Committee to hire an additional five and a half (one joint appointment with Université de Sherbrooke) tenure-stream faculty positions was approved -- to help maintain our commitment to excellence in the classroom and close interaction between faculty and students. There was unanimity among Committee members that the University must evolve, and our community trustees expressed faith in our institutional capability to move forward with a plan. A transformational agenda may lead to future growth in specific areas of the University, but simple, uncontrolled growth is not an answer to our fiscal challenges.

The decision was preceded by a presentation by the four academic deans and the Chairperson of the School of Education on strategies their respective Division/School have conceived that might lead to new or increased revenue. Their ideas are part of the campus-wide strategic planning process. Although hard dollar figures were not discussed, members of the Finance Committee recognized that the Bishop’s community is coming together to develop a vision and strategic plan which will position Bishop’s as a leader among Canadian universities.

Given the current fiscal climate, this move should be viewed as both bold and encouraging. Bold because other universities in Quebec are looking for ways to cut back the number of faculty positions given their fiscal restraints. High quality teaching and close interaction between students and professors are hallmarks of a Bishop’s experience – we need to continue investing in faculty to maintain this reality. Encouraging because this sends a message that Bishop's is committed to tackling our financial situation in a positive way. A deficit is not good news, but it can be viewed as an opportunity. If coupled with a plan a deficit becomes an investment strategy. Together, we will develop a plan to ensure a successful future for Bishop’s University.
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