From the Boardroom: UBC’s 2023/24 budget approved with little opposition

UBC’s Board of Governors unanimously approved UBC’s 2023/24 budget yesterday following a short discussion. 

The Board deferred this year’s budget approval in March following a closed Finance Committee session in which UBC administrators requested extra time to revise it.  

The approved budget projects a balanced operating budget, compared to the initial draft’s $3 million operating budget surplus. It also projects an $85 million consolidated budget surplus, compared to $70 million in the initial draft. 

The consolidated surplus is comprised of restricted funds set aside for specific purposes, including capital projects and research, and cannot be used for general operations. 

In the approved budget, 43 per cent of UBC’s revenue is expected to come from tuition fees, which UBC increased by 2–5 per cent in December 2022. Thirty-six per cent of revenue is expected to come from the BC government. 

UBC Treasurer Yale Loh said that the budget was made with the teaching and research mission of the university in mind, but also with an eye on “fiscal responsibility” considering rising inflation and costs. 

UBC Okanagan Principal Lesley Cormack said the Okanagan campus is limiting spending increases following a budgetary shortfall this year due to lower than anticipated international student enrolment. 

“For fiscal [year 2023/24], we started at a very lean place, so mostly we have not put extra investments into the strategic areas of priority,” she said. 

Faculty and students seeking more information 

While no governors voted against the budget, faculty governors Anna Kindler and Charles Menzies both expressed concerns with a perceived lack of focus on the academic mission of the university. 

“I believe that perhaps not sufficient attention has been given … to the examinations of whether sufficient resources still flow to the faculties to adequately support the bread and butter, teaching and learning and research mission of the university,” Kindler said. 

She requested a review of UBC’s Academic Excellence Funds, a report on tenure-track and sessional hiring, and information on investment in academic versus administrative hiring. 

UBC VP Finance and Operations Frank Laezza noted the request and said his team would work on having those metrics ready by the time planning starts for the 2024/25 budget.

Menzies questioned administrators’ focus on revenue growth following plans presented for new micro-credential and professional programs as revenue-generating tools. 

“There is much to suggest that growth in fact undermines the quality and deflects the purpose of a public university … revenue generating activities become [its] central and core purpose” he said. 

Student governors also noted the needs of food security groups on campus. 

UBC Vancouver student governor Kareem Hassib said he was disappointed in the $800,000 allocation believing it was not enough to support student groups, and requested a breakdown of its allocation at the June Board meeting. 

UBC Vancouver student governor and current AMS President Eshana Bhangu said she hoped funds would be set aside to meet the potential emergency needs of food security resources. 

“I would hope that there’s some contingency in case we run into a situation like last year where it was found that the original amount allocated did not [meet] the needs of the operations that are being conducted on campus,” she said.