UVic slashes budget by $13M, blames lack of international students

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The University of Victoria (UVic) has announced budget cuts for the 2024/2025 year, with the school largely naming a dip in international student enrolment as the cause.

UVic says it’s slashing its operating budget by four per cent, which is roughly $13 million.

Last year, the university also saw budget cuts of about $17 million, with a large difference being that last year the school cut its budget across the board by four per cent, while this year it is only reducing its “operating budget” by four per cent.

The school says a decline in international students has continued year over year, which is tough news for an institution that relies on foreign student tuition, which is four to five times higher than domestic school costs.

“While our domestic and graduate enrolments are healthy, our international undergraduate enrolment is the lowest it has been in over 10 years, at 11 per cent of overall enrolment,” said the school in a release Wednesday.

Expected layoffs

The university says that while employees will still get their regular salary increases as per their respective collective agreements, some workers will be laid off.

“Given the size of the necessary budget cut, unfortunately staff reductions will be unavoidable in some areas,” said the university.

“We will ensure affected employees are supported and that collective agreements are followed.”

The university says it’s working on “minimizing disruptions to students,” however, and is focused on supporting the school’s core values of education and research.

All scholarships and research grants – as well as ancillary services like child care and housing services – will also be spared from the chopping block.

Ottawa’s impact on B.C. students

In January, the federal government announced there would be a cap on new student visas for the next two years in an effort to slow down pressure on Canada’s housing market.

The cap for 2024 is 364,000 new student visas, down more than a third compared to the nearly 560,000 issued last year. The specific cap for next year has not been set yet.

While UVic says its international student enrolment was “already trending downwards,” the federal government’s new policy is likely “impacting our application numbers.”

The school adds that there was also a backlog and delays in the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada system in 2022 and 2023 – leaving some students without study permits even if they were prepared to come to Canada – and says there has been increased competition globally, particularly in China and India, where UVic previously attracted many international students.

“Finally, geopolitical factors and diplomatic disputes may be impacting international interest,” said UVic.

Moving forward, UVic says it will diversify its recruiting efforts, offer new degrees and professional graduate degrees to try to attract new learners, and apply for more provincial funding to help cover its budget.

UVic is far from the only university that is facing budget cuts and adapting to a decline in international student enrolment.

In October, Vancouver Island University said it was projecting a deficit of $20.2 million for the 2024 year, and that it was eyeing a 10 per cent budget cut for its academic and non-academic units.

The school and then-post secondary education minister, Selina Robinson, said they were confident that the university would remain open, however.

While speaking at a conference Thursday morning, B.C. Premier David Eby added that he believed it was “premature for UVic or any other school to be hitting the panic button yet.”

-With files from The Canadian Press

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