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U of W to shift from growing to earning

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THE University of Winnipeg's empire-building days are over for now -- president Lloyd Axworthy has told faculties and departments to concentrate on academics and coming up with ways to make money.

"We must come up with a third stream of revenue to stabilize our base. It won't be easy -- it's tough making money out there these days," Axworthy told a large gathering at the new Richardson College for the Environment and Science Complex in his annual state of the university address.

The U of W is launching a $15-million Future Fund campaign next month to raise money for academic departments, and Axworthy is meeting with every faculty and department to talk about how they can generate cash.

Axworthy said the U of W is making "a shift away from infrastructure and consolidation" that has seen the campus increase in size by 24 per cent in recent years, thanks to building the new science complex and the Buhler Centre, and acquiring the former bus depot and Rice Building. At the same time, the U of W did not renew leases, or sold small spaces scattered around downtown, moving everything to the expanded campus.

It's now time to concentrate on academic development, he said -- though Axworthy said later in an interview he's still interested in more student housing and the former National Research Council building on Ellice Avenue.

In a sometimes-gloomy summation of the university's status, Axworthy pointed out the U of W faces a $4.5-million pension bill because of decisions made 12 years ago "subject to some rear-view-mirror review."

Half the university's revenue comes from government grants, Axworthy said, reiterating the school's frequent complaint that the province established a grants formula in the 1970s that leaves the U of W far behind the University of Manitoba and Brandon University in per-student funding.

Tuition brings in another 28 per cent, he said. "Where does the other 22, 23 per cent come from? That is one of the great conundrums," he said. "It's been a year of stock-taking, of redirecting our sights.

"We will redirect our fundraising," he said.

The $15-million Future Fund will support academic research, information technology, distance education and online learning -- and commercialization that will help raise money.

"We're really changing the onus of decision-making into the faculty levels, department levels," he said. "It gives a lot more opportunity to derive income from our academic activities."

Every academic unit has to look at the potential for putting its courses online to attract more revenue-paying students, he said.

"A large part of the incentive is that the money will stay there for their purposes," Axworthy said.

Axworthy said Thursday's sod-turning for the $40-million United Health & RecPlex athletic facility will produce revenue -- from organizations renting it for indoor soccer and other sports, from parkade fees, and from fees on which students are yet to vote.

But, he cautioned, the U of W must continue to strengthen its student services and to compete for students.

"I'm concerned how many young people come to this university without a family doctor," said Axworthy. He wants the university to be a major player in community health, but, "We can't do it out of our existing resources.

"We blithely talk about globalization -- there is a lot more scope and choice for young people in this province to go elsewhere," Axworthy warned. "Without resources, the university does not thrive."


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 8, 2012 A5

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