Fall 2012 Message

Dear Members of the Campus Community,

As we approach the final weeks of the first semester of the 2012–13 academic year, with exams and the busy holiday season drawing near, it is important to pause and recognize the privilege and responsibility of membership within the University of Prince Edward Island, and the greater PEI community.

Our University has a proud history, and plays a critical role in educating an informed, engaged, and increasingly global citizenry. Positioning the University and our graduates for success in a rapidly changing world is a challenge and a priority that we accept with a sense of purpose and urgency.

The commitment and vision essential to pursuing a successful future for our students, community, and province arise from shared values and a sound understanding of the University of Prince Edward Island’s current challenges, accomplishments, and goals.

This understanding is critical to informing UPEI’s 2013–14 budget development process, now underway.

Post-secondary educational institutions around the world are confronting numerous and complicated issues that include: difficult economic and societal conditions, changing higher education models, and increased competition. Demands by governments, granting agencies, and students call for modernization and greater accountability—including clearly identified links to value-for-investment and innovative career pathways.

Closer to home, UPEI’s operating budget is heavily dependent on government funding in a province facing its own difficult financial reality. UPEI appreciates that the economic and societal value of post-secondary education continues to be affirmed in discussions with political leaders, and, along with health, is recognized and advanced as a priority for the Government of Prince Edward Island. (The Department of Innovation and Advanced Learning recently created a task force that will seek means to promote Prince Edward Island as a destination for post-secondary education.) However, in the 2012–13 budget, lower government revenues and higher deficits reduced government funding to higher education resulting in a three per cent reduction in UPEI’s operating grant. This funding challenge was further complicated by reduced grants from the four Atlantic Provinces to fund the Atlantic Veterinary College.

This funding situation combines with a declining regional demographic in high school age students, potentially impacting enrolment numbers and thus negatively affecting the University’s other major revenue source. UPEI experienced steady growth in undergraduate, graduate, and international student enrolments over the past decade. But in 2011–12 the University began to see a flattening in enrolment growth, and in 2012–13 a slight decline. Preliminary enrolment figures for the current school year (as of September 2012) show current Grade 6 enrolment to be 72 per cent of current Grade 12 enrolment, a 28 per cent reduction. With PEI high school graduates making up over 70 per cent of the UPEI student body, the projected decline in PEI high school enrolments creates a significant pending enrolment (and fiscal) challenge.

In the face of these serious issues, the University must continue to enhance its high quality programs and protect the interests of students, staff and faculty. Within the 2012–13 budgeting process and throughout the year, the University sought opportunities to increase revenues and decrease expenditures, and to strategically position itself to manage available resources towards institutionally identified priorities. This effort involved every colleague and all departments and units on campus. I wish to thank each of you for your ongoing creative thought, fine work, and commitment. Following are several examples of your accomplishments during a difficult budget year.

The Future Directions visioning exercise identified core University strengths, and the subsequent Dare to Dream campaign engaged the campus community in an ideas generation process. The recent settlement of two faculty agreements and salary provisions with the other union groups on campus positions UPEI for stable labour relations over the next four years. Additional achievements include the creation of the International Relations Office and alignment of Student Affairs; the development and approval of new programs and accreditations; and the enhancement of relationships with the provincial government and external partners. Also, in addition to previously established international relationships, the University has targeted specific agreements with universities and organizations in China, Egypt, England, and Ireland. Research at the University continues to have a significant impact, both locally and globally, on a wide range of activities, from child development to fish health and climate change.

As UPEI begins budget development for 2013–14, we will anchor discussion around priorities that include the following:

  1. Strategic action plan—evolving from the Future Directions Vision Document and the Dare to Dream campaign, and building on historic strengths in teaching, programs, research, service, student experience, identified pillars, and strategic platforms,
  2. Strategic enrolment plan—recruitment (domestic and international), and retention,
  3. Continued focus on enhanced engagement with government, partners, and community,
  4. Capacity building and infrastructure improvement (human, financial, technological, physical) with a focus on effectiveness and sustainability,
  5. Fundraising and friend-raising, and
  6. Risk management planning—pension plan, ERP, deferred maintenance.

It is critical that the University community works together towards a transparent and sustainable budget that advances the important mission of the University of Prince Edward Island.

I invite you to attend a Town Hall meeting at 10 am on Thursday, November 22, in The McCain Foundation Learning Commons (285 N) at the Atlantic Veterinary College. Your participation is encouraged and appreciated.

For a recent statistical overview of the University, please visit: www.upei.ca/bythenumbers

Best wishes,

Alaa Abd-El-Aziz, President and Vice-Chancellor

Contact UPEI