News / Calgary

University of Calgary research goals may take longer to reach in wake of budget cuts

University of Calgary officials will have fewer academic staff than planned on campus this fall and may be forced to adjust timelines for becoming a top-five research institution in Canada, according to the vice-president and provost.

Speaking to Metro nearly two months after the province slashed post-secondary funding by 7.3 per cent, the U of C's Dru Marshall described the resulting pain across the system as "remarkable."

"The pace with which we achieve some of the goals we have set up, which are very ambitious, might be a little slower than we initially though we would be," Marshall explained. "But make no mistake, the University of Calgary has an ambitious plan and we are continuing to drive forward on those goals and objectives — we will just not be driving at the same pace we would otherwise."

Pamphlets, posters and others materials scattered across the U of C campus make it clear the institution's top priority is fulfilling its Eyes High strategy, which aims to turn the school into a top-five research institute in Canada by 2016.

But scaling back staffing projections could throw a wrench into that plan. Marshall said while 50 new academic staff hired in November will stay on, it's likely the university will not refill 50 positions held by retiring or transitioning members as it typically would.

Students' union president Raphael Jacob said the U of C has been relatively unscathed so far by the budget cuts, especially when compared to other institutions. Calgary's Mount Royal University, for example, announced a slate of program suspensions last month and will charge students a new services fee this fall.

"Of course, there are going to be some repercussions, but as long as we keep them as minor as possible and keep students in the loop, we'll do what we have to do," Jacob said.

Marshall said the Eyes High goal was always going to be difficult to achieve but didn't rule out hitting the target, despite a $41-million shortfall this year that will surge to $113 million over the next four years.

She said the U of C is better positioned than many others in the province and will still achieve a form of "academic renewal" through the new hires in November.

Alberta Advanced Education Minister Thomas Lukaszuk has said while the budget realities facing the sector are tough, they create opportunity for better collaboration and focus among 26 institutions in the province.

The minister came under fire on social media over the weekend after describing the efforts he's steering to streamline the sector as being "Where the magic happens," in a tweet to a disgruntled University of Alberta associate professor.

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