University of Alberta holds rally against provincial post-secondary cuts

University of Alberta members hold rally in protest of budget cuts to post-secondary institutions, March 27, 2021. Julian Fournier, Global News

A parade of vehicles made its way to the legislature Saturday in protest of post-secondary cuts in Alberta.

University of Alberta Non-Academic Staff Association and Association of Academic Staff members, as well as students and other supporters participated in the protest.

“Our budget has been cut by about 30 per cent over the last two-and-a-half years, so our staff are on the frontline of that battle, not just for our institution but for the entire post-secondary sector,” Jillian Pratt, with the Non-Academic Staff Association, said.

Click to play video: 'University of Alberta dealing with massive budget cuts'
University of Alberta dealing with massive budget cuts

READ MORE: University of Alberta says it bears brunt of provincial budget cuts; worries about quality, reputation

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The event was held following the Alberta government’s provincial budget that reduced its spending to post-secondary institutions from $5.47 billion in 2019-20 down to $5.04 billion in 2021-22.

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The U of A has argued the cuts impact the school disproportionably. University of Alberta president Bill Flanagan said the school will face a $60.1-million cut, almost one half of the total post-secondary slashing done by the UCP in the latest provincial budget.

Click to play video: 'Future of the University of Alberta amid budget cuts'
Future of the University of Alberta amid budget cuts

“This is not just about jobs on campus — absolutely, we’re losing 1,200 jobs on campus as we speak — but it really is about the future of the province. We can’t recover economically without the type of research, innovation, creativity, entrepreneurship that comes from a thriving post-secondary system,” Ricardo Acuna, with Association of Academic Staff, said.

READ MORE: Alberta budget 2021: What’s in it for Edmonton?

The UCP government said the University of Alberta budget cuts bring funding more in-line with other institutions in Alberta and across Canada. The province said it is working with the university on revenue challenges.

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Demetrios Nicolaides, the province’s advanced education minister, has denied any specific institutions were targeted.

“We looked at the funding levels per student for all our institutions, looked at how they compared to one another, and looked at how they compared to their competitors in other provinces. We’ve used that approach to determine funding reductions,” Nicolaides said.

READ MORE: Alberta universities eyeing tuition hikes, campus changes as funding model evolves

Earlier in March, Flanagan said the university is focusing on a “proactive” restructuring of its academic and administrative programs, including reducing administrative costs by over $95 million this year.

— With files from Global News online journalist Allison Bench

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