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Axworthy going out with cash request

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Lloyd Axworthy

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The last thing Lloyd Axworthy did as president of the University of Winnipeg might be the most significant -- getting the province to talk about how hard done by the U of W is in terms of operating grants.

Axworthy said Monday the province has agreed to establish a working group to consider the U of W's long-standing claim it is historically underfunded compared to the University of Manitoba and Brandon University.

Of all the things he's done in his decade as president, presiding over phenomenal student and physical growth at U of W, "It would be the most significant for the university and the community," he said.

Government officials were not immediately available for comment Monday evening.

Axworthy said the university hopes to see a change in the way the province funds its grants by the end of 2014.

Axworthy, whose last day as president is Friday, said it would take at least another $40 million a year in funding to the U of W to reach parity with Brandon University on a per-student basis.

"We're not asking for that -- $8 to $10 million over four years would give us the stabilization we need," he said. "We're not talking about a windfall, we're talking about stabilizing the base."

The U of W calculates it has the lowest expenditure per student of any university in Canada, and averages $33.8 million less per year in funding than similar universities such as the Unversitiy of New Brunswick, Trent and Lakehead.

The board of regents passed Axworthy's final budget Monday night, a balanced budget of $120 million little different than budgets of recent years.

The U of W will leave enough jobs vacant permanently or temporarily to save $3.6 million. Another $700,000 has come off administrative costs, while the pension plan he inherited needs an additional $2.5 million in contributions.

The ongoing pension problem should be sorted out in six or seven years, said Axworthy, but until then it's an albatross.

The U of W will increase class sizes for some first-year courses to 70 or 80 from 30 or 40, Axworthy said -- pointing out larger schools often have five times that in intro courses.

"There's no major program cut," Axworthy said, and larger class sizes will not be imposed "in all of them... we'll see how it affects the pedagogy."

With about 10,000 students, the U of W is hoping to hold the line on domestic students graduating from high school this month.

"We're branching out into a substantial increase in our online learning," he said, and aiming to double the international student enrolment over the next few years from the current five per cent."

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 24, 2014 B3

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