The president of Memorial University is adamant the recent provincial budget was good for post-secondary education.
“In a year of constraints, it was very, very positive,” said Gary Kachanoski.
However, he is faced with a challenging task as a result of reduced administrative funding from the Department of Advanced Education and Skills and the Department of Health and Community Services.
In a news release issued Friday, MUN said it needs to find $3 million in annual administrative savings.
The Faculty of Medicine, too, is facing a shortfall in cash, to the tune of $850,000 annually. Those funds would typically come from the Department of Health and Community Services.
“Those are on the administrative side, to be clear,” said Kachanoski. “We will find them in our administrative portfolios of our various vice-presidents.”
Asked if a reduction in staff is avoidable when trying to account for almost $4 million, Kachanoski said it will look to minimize the impact on all units.
“I can’t speak to whether or not there will or will not be (job losses) at this state, but I can say that we will do it in a thoughtful way which will create the minimum impact.”
Given MUN is operating within the relevant budget year, Kachanoski said it is imperative to identify where it can find the necessary savings, ALthough the process for doing so will not be done in a rushed or unthoughtful manner.
“It’s just a week after the budget, and we’re starting that process,” he said, adding decisions will likely be made “within the next month or so.”
Kachanoski said the reduced administrative spending will have no impact on academic programs or the delivery of services to students.
He added that Wednesday’s announcement of a decision to close MUN’s Division of Lifelong Learning was not connected to the school’s need to find administrative cost savings.
“This discussion has been going on for some time now about the business model for that overall set of programs. It was the right thing to do.”
The program had accumulated a deficit of $700,000 since 2001. Ten full-time staff and 50 part-time employees are affected by the closure.
The budget also included $10 million for deferred maintenance work at the university, a figure that was $2 million less than what it was expecting to receive.
A study completed by a consultant for the university in November 2010 found that MUN needs to invest at least $32 million annually until 2026 to reduce its deferred maintenance to a level comparable with other major educational institutions in Canada.
However, Kachanoski said the university will benefit from infrastructure upgrades planned to take place over the next few years.
“We just need to have the infrastructure dollars that allow us to continue to do the deferred maintenance, do the planning, and move on.”
Foremost among those plans is new core science infrastructure. The budget included measures to start the planning process for such a facility.
“They’re going to work with us and begin the planning process, Which is great. That’s exactly what we’ve been asking for.”
Kachanoski said the planning process will take approximately two years.
Following an address made last month to the Rotary Club of St. John’s, he said it will cost approximately $250 million to build a 300,000-square-foot space to accommodate MUN’s engineering and applied science programs.
He maintains there is much to like in the budget, making note of significant funding for the Marine Institute and the engineering faculty, as well as a continuation of the tuition freeze and investment in the construction of new student residences.
“I think this is one of the best budgets for universities in Canada,” he said.