This year, the Alberta government imposed expenditure caps on each post-secondary institution, and for the University of Alberta, it would amount to substantial cuts in expenditures. Any money that the University attracted from external sources such as research grants, that were in turn spent on research activities, would count toward total annual University expenditures. Such research expenditures would then force Universities to make cuts in other operations to meet the expenditure cap. The absurdity of such a situation is obvious. As a University we are to attract external research funds and perform research with such funds. The provincial government encourages us to attract external grants, purportedly to shift our reliance away from the provincial government grant, yet penalizes us for corresponding research expenditures paid for by the grant. Representatives of the confederation of Alberta faculty associations (CAFA) of which AASUA is a member, met online with the Minister of Advanced Education in mid-May to explain this contradiction, and advised that the expenditure cap should be removed, or at minimum expenditures on research grants be removed from the expenditure calculations. Furthermore, CAFA argued that COVID-19 has introduced extreme uncertainty to University budgets. No doubt, administrations of Alberta universities had similar arguments in meetings with the provincial government.
Thankfully, the Alberta Ministry of Advanced Education decided this week to scrap expenditure cap targets planned for this year https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/pse-expenditures-target-1.5607270. The argument made was the uncertain impact of COVID-19 on enrolment and revenues. This decision provides something of a reprieve for this year, however, further discussions with government will be necessary to rationalize accounting relating to research expenditures in subsequent years. For immediate consideration is the impact that this reprieve has on the extent and pace of the unprecedented academic restructuring planned for the U of A this year. AASUA leadership will pursue this issue with the University. Stay tuned for updates from us, and/or the University administration on this evolving situation.
The Alberta government has also pushed back for at least a year, a funding model it proposed for Alberta public post-secondary institutions that would be based on meeting government stipulated performance metrics https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/pandemic-delays-university-funding-model-1.5595570.