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Faculties at Ryerson are preparing to trim employee hours and services following the Ontario government’s decision to reduce funding to universities.
In a statement released Feb. 4, Charles Falzon, dean of the Faculty of Communication and Design (FCAD), said he must reduce department spending by $5 million over the next two years.
In an interview with the Ryersonian, Falzon said that part-time instructors’ hours will be reduced.
“There is a real possibility that there will be fewer assignments for part-time instructors, because I think there are some courses that won’t be offered as often,” he said. “There is no doubt that there will be some reduction in teaching hours.”
The changes in FCAD will be reflected across campus, Falzon said.
“The university as a whole is looking at how to deal with the ramifications of the reduced tuition and the funding cuts.We’re all dealing with it differently … but the objective is very much the same for each of our budgets.”
This comes after a statement from university president Mohamed Lachemi on Jan. 25 in which he said that “… Ontario’s current fiscal environment is challenging and the university sector is facing tough decisions.”
He added that “difficult choices will have to be made.”
In the email sent to staff, Falzon said shrinking his faculty’s spending will require “substantial reductions” in the number of courses offered and teaching hours required. The budget adjustments come after Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative government announced Jan. 17 it would be reducing tuition fees at Ontario universities and colleges by 10 per cent. The government also said it will stop covering inflation increases in 2019-20.
Falzon said that another cost-saving method will be the creation of more faculty-wide “super courses,” which are both cheaper to facilitate and allow students to have the “breadth of course they want.”
Rob Burroughs, a research associate at Higher Education Strategy Associates, said the changes to the way the government funds post-secondary education are concerning for the quality of education universities and colleges in Ontario can offer.
“It’s alarming and has the potential to be very bad,” Burroughs said. “At best it will be bad — we just have to wait and see. There’s a lot of factors up in the air right now.”
Burroughs said that increasing efforts to recruit international students, who pay significantly higher tuition fees, has been a “trick” Canadian universities have used in the past.
“Since the Ford government was installed, cuts to university funding and domestic tuition fees can be made up through international student tuition fees. It’s a matter of how aggressively they have to recruit,” he said.
Increasing the enrolment of international students is part of FCAD’s plans to create revenue in the wake of the cuts, according to Falzon.
“Our partnerships we offer for international students to come here, that revenue we’re going to build on so that we can minimize the effect of any structural deficit,” he said. “The plan is to have a target of enhanced international numbers beyond the domestic quotas.” He said the number of spots available to domestic applicants will remain the same.
Chris Glover, the NDP critic for training, colleges and universities, said students should continue to put pressure on the government to have them increase the supports for post-secondary education.
“These creative programs that students are in are actually economic drivers for this province,” Glover said, “and we need to support them.”
Falzon says that FCAD is in a “unique” position to deal with the budget cuts.
“We are a bold faculty — we have such momentum, and that energy is not stopping. We’re going to have to make some difficult decisions,” he said. “Keeping our eye focused on student experience is the lens we’re going to look through.”