In the face of rising costs and global economic inflation, it’s even more important to understand how the University of British Columbia’s budget works.
Every year, UBC undertakes a comprehensive and consultative budget planning process to determine how to use its available funds to cover anticipated expenses for the upcoming year. This process involves separate but related planning on both the Vancouver and Okanagan campuses.
With an annual operating budget of more than $2.5 billion, which includes revenue from provincial and federal government grants and student tuition, UBC is committed to financial transparency.
“UBC’s budget represents our financial roadmap for the year—it’s a reflection of our commitment to excellence in teaching, learning and research,” says UBC Vice-President, Finance and Operations, Frank Laezza. “We are continuously striving to strike a balance, ensuring we provide students with a high-quality education while managing financial pressures.”
“Our commitment to provide a world-class educational experience while navigating today’s complex financial landscape is unwavering,” says UBC Okanagan Principal and Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Lesley Cormack. “Together with our community, UBC is committed to continuing to thrive and excel.”
There are two components to UBC’s budget: the operating budget and non-operating funds.
Non-operating funds are restricted, made up primarily of sponsored research and endowments. The use of these funds is bound by the terms of the contract established when funds are granted. As such, they are allocated for specific purposes, such as special projects and initiatives, constructing new buildings, endowment initiatives, or research.
Meanwhile, the operating budget is funded by three major revenue sources: government grants; student tuition; and sales and services. The university receives provincial and federal government funding for domestic undergraduate courses, research, and some graduate-level teaching.
“UBC is grateful for the government support we receive, which significantly aids our commitment to providing an enriching learning experience as well as comprehensive support services,” says UBC Vancouver Provost and Vice-President, Academic, Dr. Gage Averill. “At the same time, the university must rely on a number of funding sources to support the operating budget, including tuition.”
Tuition is used to support the university’s core academic operations, including student services, faculty and staff salaries, libraries, information technology, administration, and investments in new programs and services.
In addition, a portion of tuition from international students is directed to the UBC Excellence Funds for strategic investments on both the Vancouver and Okanagan campuses. These funds enable the university to attract talented faculty and students, support world-class research, and deliver an exceptional learning experience for students.
A set portion of all tuition goes back to students as financial aid in the form of bursaries, scholarships, and awards. UBC is committed to supporting student success through a diverse range of financial supports. For the 2022/23 fiscal year, the university allocated $394.3 million in student financial assistance.
In 2021, the university launched a comprehensive plan to address student affordability challenges. This work is being co-led led by the Vice-President, Students, the Provosts and Vice-Presidents, Academic, and a Student Affordability Task Force Implementation Committee. The latter includes representatives from the Alma Mater Society and Graduate Students Society at UBC Vancouver and the Students’ Union Okanagan at UBC Okanagan, as well as staff and faculty. UBC has also set an ambitious goal of raising $100 million by 2029 focused specifically on affordability to fund existing and need-based student awards, as well as affordability programs and services on both campuses.
Through personalized advising and financial wellness workshops, UBC strives to empower students by providing them with tools to manage their finances effectively so they can focus on their academic studies without undue stress. Information about financial supports and resources are available online for both Vancouver students and Okanagan students.
“The university is committed to ensuring that financial constraints do not hinder our students’ academic journeys,” says Dr. Averill. “We care deeply about our community and ensuring students have access to the supports and resources they need, including student health and wellbeing services, and emergency financial aid.”
As part of the budget planning process, UBC works closely with elected student leaders and conducts surveys to understand the priorities and challenges of UBC students.
“We believe in the power of collaborative decision-making,” says Vice-President, Students, Dr. Ainsley Carry. “Our engagement process with elected student leaders and the broader student body ensures that we’re attuned to the needs and priorities of the students we serve.”
To ensure the university can continue to provide a high-quality and enriching learning and research environment, UBC is continually reviewing its operations to determine where costs can be reduced. UBC Vancouver reduced administrative budgets by two per cent annually since 2020 to mitigate the financial impact of COVID-19 and incentivize operational efficiencies—cuts that will continue through the 2023/24 fiscal year. UBC Okanagan cut approximately 2.5 per cent in both 2022/23 and 2023/24 and anticipates a further cut to administrative budgets for 2024/25.