If you don’t receive the Saskatoon daily news by paper or broadcast, you may not know that the University of Saskatchewan is under duress.
The university has recently been saying it must cut $44.5 million in operating funds by 2016, and capital projects are also under review. Forty job cuts representing $2.3 million have already been announced, although no specifics have been provided.
The university realized it faces a significant operational deficit by 2016 after it was told it would receive only a two percent budget increase from the province this year (down from five percent in recent years), and should expect no higher increases in the future. Therefore, it has mobilized.
A serious concern is what these cuts will mean for the core colleges. It’s not a reach to say the College of Agriculture and Bioresources and the Western College of Veterinary Medicine are extremely important to agriculture across the Prairies. Hopefully, any cuts will not lower the number of students graduating from these programs.
Dean Mary Buhr said in an interview last week that the ag college is not affected by the job cuts now being made.
“I can’t tell you if we will be or won’t be in the future,” she said.
The U of S administration is looking for appropriate savings, and instead of cutting across the board is trying to cut strategically, she said.
Clearly, though, Buhr is hoping the cuts will not affect her college in any significant way.
“Agriculture is the heart and soul not only of the province, but of the future of the country.” It’s hard to say it any better than that.
Dean Doug Freeman said the vet college’s situation is different because it receives funding from the four western provinces. Still, he said, “our funding situation parallels what’s happening at the U of S.”
The college, under its new but as-yet unsigned agreement with the ministries of advanced education, also has a budget deficit, although no cuts have yet been made. However, it can use the revenue streams it re-ceives from providing veterinary services as well as instruction to help manage a shortfall, said Freeman.
So far, so good. But considering the crucial roles the ag and vet colleges play in this part of the world, let’s hope the provinces and the university think twice before retracting any more resources.