2023 has been a memorable year for Concordia.
In April alone, the university announced the appointment of medical anthropologist and social epidemiologist Timothy Dye as dean of our new School of Health, launched our PLAN/NET ZERØ action plan to decarbonize the buildings on our campuses before 2040, toasted Jason Lewis’s success in winning the single largest individual grant — $23 million — in Concordia’s history, and celebrated news of a $123-million grant from the Government of Canada’s Canada First Research Excellence Fund — the largest single research award in our history — for a multi-stakeholder project, Electrifying Society.
This news comes on the heels of the October release and our first actions to make good on the recommendations from the President’s Task Force on Anti-Black Racism, and in anticipation of a third consecutive year when a record-breaking 8,000-plus students will graduate in our June convocation.
These achievements reflect the extraordinary work and ambition of all sectors of our community and further consolidate Concordia’s place as one of the world’s great young universities.
Yet as we all recognize, there is a lot of instability in the world. Higher education in Quebec and Canada is not immune to that. It’s a reality that Concordia, like virtually all universities in Quebec and North America, is facing new challenges in terms of student enrolment caused by factors largely beyond our control.
In particular, after years of steady growth, the number of Quebec students coming to Concordia dipped by 1,576 in 2022-23, or more than 7 per cent. This drop reflects the overall decline in the Quebec demographics for the 18-24 age cohort, plus a robust labour market that is drawing many prospective students away from university and into the workforce.
Fortunately, because of our growing national and international reputation, our out-of-province and international student numbers increased by 9.1 per cent and by 8.9 per cent, respectively. Still, the overall result is that our total FTE count for 2022-23 declined by 2.1 per cent.
This decline has direct consequences for our budget, since 87 per cent of our revenues come from tuition fees and government grants tied to registrations. Factor in normal salary increases, the impact of inflation on expenses and lingering costs of COVID-19, and predictably we find ourselves facing a deficit.
On Thursday, the Board of Governors approved our 2023-24 budget with a deficit of $19.4 million. As in similar situations in the past, a portion of the deficit is strategic.
A total of $4.1 million will be used to create a President’s Transformational Fund. The fund is designed to sustain momentum on key projects, but also to provide the necessary capacity to review activities and programs, and modify how we do things.
We have designed a budget recovery plan that will require collective effort and vigilant management, but which will return us to balance within five years. It should be no surprise that we will need to be prudent with our expenses while creatively seeking new sources of revenue.
By embedding modest, short-term deficit spending within a long-term sustainable financial framework, we can continue to support key transformational projects that build on the momentum of our recent successes.
In 2019-20, we projected a balanced budget, a major achievement for any Quebec university. But our best laid plans were waylaid by global circumstances no one foresaw. Our new budget plan puts us back on track.
Given our community’s commitment to Concordia’s success and our proven record of innovation, strength, teamwork and adaptability, I’m certain we’ll continue to distinguish ourselves as a cutting-edge university.
President and Vice-Chancellor
Read more about Concordia’s 2023-24 budget from Concordia’s chief financial officer Denis Cossette.
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