Agriculture ranks high forU of S funding

Agricultural research figured prominently in the shortest category of a recent report ranking programs at the University of Saskatchewan: those recommended for increased funding.

“We’re not jumping up and down about all of these things, but basically I think the college came out with pretty good rankings,” said Mary Buhr, dean of the agriculture college.

The university, which has projected a $44 million deficit by 2016, began an extensive review of its operations earlier this year. 

That report, which was released last week, identified candidates for enhanced, maintained and reduced resources and those that could be reconfigured or phased out. 

Only 16 of the hundreds of programs reviewed were ranked in the enhanced category.

Programs in the College of Agriculture and Bioresources, the Western College of Veterinary Medicine and the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization represent five of those spots. 

The college’s animal and poultry and soil science research initiatives, as well as the Crop Development Centre, which releases new crop varieties, were highlighted for their national reputation and potential for future growth.

“We were very concerned going into this whole process that … what was going to be emphasized was undergraduate programs with high numbers of students,” said Buhr. 

The agriculture college reported this fall that its student enrolment had increased 10 percent from the previous year while enrolment across campus remained flat.

She said agriculture programs for which changes are recommended have low student enrolments or aren’t active. 

Several agricultural economics programs are recommended for phasing out. 

“That is one area where we’re going to look very carefully at what figures they were looking at,” said Buhr. 

The report describes the WCVM’s doctor of veterinary medicine program as expensive but effective and recommended greater resources. 

“If you compare our funding, we are near the bottom of funding for veterinary schools in Canada and similarly sized schools in the U.S.,” said WCVM dean Douglas Freeman.

“I think we can safely say that the college does a really good job at its core mission on a pretty lean structure and a lean budget.”

Buhr said the Centre for Northern Agroforestry and Afforestation, responsible for research into shelter belts and biomass production, will close. Its external funding has run out, but its research will continue, she added.  

A consultation process will follow in the new year before final decisions are made.

It’s estimated the changes could bring as much as $25 million in savings to the university, which has already seen significant cuts this year.

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