Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

BU predicts big job cuts without 12.6% grant hike

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The budget forecast for Brandon University is well beyond doom and gloom -- way beyond.

Unless the province provides at least five times as much as it did this year in annual operating grants, close to 13 per cent of the university's jobs are in danger.

BU's focus must shift to protecting its core as a liberal arts institution, the board of governors was told this weekend.

Each year brings dire predictions of financial disaster for Manitoba's universities, but the forecast developed by BU's board is one of the worst in recent memory.

More than 40 of 334 full-time jobs, two-thirds of them teaching positions, are in jeopardy, BU said in its forecast for 2014-15.

Universities are required to file forecasts to the provincial Council on Postsecondary Education (COPSE) this far ahead of the next school year.

This year, the province reneged on its previous three-year commitment to increase operating grants five per cent, instead raising them 2.5 per cent.

To avoid cuts a year from now, BU governors were told this weekend, operating grants must increase a whopping 12.6 per cent in 2014-15, and by a further 3.5 per cent and 3.8 per cent in the ensuing two years.

But the forecast acknowledges there is no guarantee the cash-strapped province will provide any grant increase.

The forecast assumes the province won't budge on capping tuition hikes at the rate of inflation.

To add to the university's pressure, next year is the final year of the faculty contract, reached after the longest professors' strike in the province's history.

The final year of the contract calls for three per cent wage hikes. Lurking always is an ongoing shortfall in BU's pension fund.

BU's vow to protect its core mission means "our fundamental challenge in this upcoming budget year and the subsequent two years is not to erode the central mandate of Brandon University as an institution with a strong liberal education foundation in sciences, social sciences, arts, fine and creative arts and professional programs."

That includes new master's programs in psychiatric nursing and in environmental and life sciences.

"We take very seriously how fragile this task will be if sufficient funding is not forthcoming from the provincial government this year and in the subsequent two years for which we were asked to provide our planning direction," said the report to the board of governors.

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 30, 2013 A5

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