University Budgets Slashed

Concordia, FEUQ Disappointed

After canceling the planned tuition hike following months of protests, the Parti Québécois government has announced severe budget cuts to Quebec universities, sparking an outcry from students and university administration. Photo Corey Pool

The Parti Québécois government announced cuts of $124 million to universities on Dec. 6, leaving administrations scrambling to balance budgets.

The Parti Québécois government announced cuts of $124 million to universities on Dec. 6, leaving administrations scrambling to balance budgets.

These cuts come into effect in the fiscal year 2012-2013, which means that to avoid running a deficit, savings will have to be found by April 30, 2013.

According to a letter penned by Concordia president Alan Shepard on Dec. 7, the finance minister’s announcement is “disappointing.”

Concordia estimates that the cuts will mean an approximately $11.5-million loss to its operating budget. This number does not comprise the approximately $3 million that the university has been promised to offset the loss of revenue from 2012’s cancelled fee increase. Whether Concordia will receive these funds this year or next has yet to be specified.

In his letter, Shepard said that Concordia would “begin a series of conversations on our budget challenges” in January.

In an interview with The Link on Monday, Concordia spokesperson Chris Mota said that the structure of these conversations had not yet been finalized, but that she believed the talks would be “very much an open forum [where] people can come and share their concerns.”

Mota said that the university had not received any direction from the government as to what areas it should be cutting from, and that finding savings would be a serious challenge.

“This is the fourth budget this university has had to build in one fiscal year,” she said.

The Numbers
Cuts announced Dec. 6
Total budget cuts: $522 million
Cuts to Quebec Universities: $124 million
Cuts to Concordia: $11.5 million

The university originally expected extra revenue from the tuition increase, but had to re-adjust its plans when the hikes were scaled back, and then eliminated. “On top of that we still have to cut,” she continued.

Mota said that several Quebec universities, including Concordia, have been consulted by the Conference of University Rectors and Principals of Quebec on this issue.

Shepard will be one of three CREPUQ delegates at the next thematic meeting of the Summit on Universities, which will take place December 12 and 13 in Trois-Rivières. This is the second of four meetings taking place in the lead-up to the final summit in February.

The atmosphere at the meeting is expected to be tense, with outcry over the cuts coming from many sides of the university community.

CREPUQ said in a press release that it is “very worried” that the cuts will have a negative impact “on universities’ capacity to fulfill their mission in teaching, research and creation and services to the community.”

Martine Desjardins of the Fédération étudiante universitaire de Québec was also critical of the cuts.

“We know that money is mismanaged in universities, but that’s not a reason in itself to bulldoze university budgets,” said Desjardins in a press release.

Quebec’s budget documents show that the newly-created ministry responsible for university funding, the Ministère l’Enseignement supérieur, de la Recherche, de la Science et de la Technologie, is also planning cuts in 2013-2014, in the areas of support for science, research and innovation (-8.6 per cent) and funding for organizations dedicated to research and innovation (-12,9 per cent).

UPDATE: A previous version of this article said that the $124 million-cut to university budgets was for the 2013-2014 fiscal year. In fact, the cuts are for the current (2012-2013) fiscal year. The Link regrets the error.