On Thursday, February 28, the University of Toronto held their Governing Council meeting at UTM after a brief tour around the campus, where chancellors and guests were able to see the results of the campus remodeling.
Clair Kennedy, elected chair of Governing Council, first began the meeting with condolences for the late Chancellor Michael Wilson and spoke of his great contributions to mental health. An introduction to the 2019-2020 returning council then followed for both elected and re-elected governors, who will have a seat at the Governing Council table for a 3-year term.
Ulrich Krull, UTM’s Vice President and Principal, then gave a review of the UTM campus. Krull commented on the increasing influx of students, which is nearly at 16,000 students, and the “intention to level off” in the upcoming years.
Principal Krull also commented on UTM’s move into the research sphere, and the university’s reaction to the 10 per cent tuition cut.
“The intention overall is to really invest in terms of what we do as full-fledged members of the University of Toronto”, Principal Krull said. “This campus has been built on an undergraduate backbone and we will now move toward investment and research. We want to build out that research structurally.”
“While we do this, we also recognize: three campuses, one university. Whatever we are developing here on this campus will be tied to the other campuses […] This is something that we try to nurture: the idea that the value is not just for this campus but for the university.”
Regarding the 10 per cent tuition cut implemented by the provincial government on January 17, Principal Krull discusses proposals that UTM is considering following the government changes.
“This is a clash that’s going to come up both in this body as well as the entire university as we try to accommodate the financial implications of the tuition cut […] one of the ways of dealing with these financial cuts is simply an across the board cut. That would be the easy way of doing things, whatever percentage it requires. That does not nurture excellence. It does not change the pattern in which excellence could be found.”
Instead Principal Krull hopes to take a community approach when evaluating how the university wants to move forward.
“We have reached out on the academic side to the chairs and directors of the departments and we have informed them of a whole variety of things that could be taken both as cuts and terms of income.”
Since the university is limited with domestic student tuition, but can have more economic flexibility with international student tuition, many have wondered if U of T will increase tuition for international students to offset the 10 per cent tuition cut.
On the question of whether the university will take in more international students to offset the budget cuts, Principal Krull answered, “No. We will use it as one piece of a mix of actions that will allow us to find a path forward from a standpoint of equilibrium. But the equilibrium is designed so we do not sacrifice our long-term academic plan.”
Principal Krull stated that UTM will continue to hire faculty and staff, if budget permitting, but noted that “one of the ways of dealing with the academic constraints is to simply slow the hiring process […] and to slow some of the other investments we have in capital investments.”
“On the revenue side, where we have international students, we must recognize that our long-term plan on this campus, as we move towards our vision of an internationally significant research-intensive university, is to have about one in four of our students be international students.”
“We are running at about 24 per cent international students right now,” Principal Krull continued, “so the discussion here, as one talks about taking in more international students, is to go from 24 to 25.”
U of T President Meric Gertler also remarked on the recent provincial changes. “We had our first round of technical briefings with the staff from the Ministry of Training Colleges and Universities. So, some of these details are coming into clearer focus, but I would hasten to add that many are still not that clear.”
“The new framework has to be in place for the 2019-2020 school year and tuition levels will be frozen for the 2020-2021 year as well. What happens after that? We’re not really sure.”
“The government’s decision will have the effect of cutting our operating revenue by $65 million year over year in 2019-2020 relative to last year’s budget. Relative to our budget plan for 2019-2020 it’s a cut of $88 million.”
U of T Principal Gertler also mentioned December 31 marked the end of the Boundless Campaign. On March 19, the “final big number” will be announced at the Presidents’ Circle club event.
“It will be cause for much celebration because we’ve received gifts from over one hundred thousand unique donors. You can’t thank them all in one event, you have to have a series of events […] [and so] we have settled on this idea of having a season of gratitude.”