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President Loreman’s report to GFC, February 19, 2020

Posted on: Feb 19, 2020

Budget news:

Our budget for 2020-21 is almost complete and will go to the Board for discussion and approval for our meeting at the end of February. As always, we have been prudent in ensuring that our students continue to receive a high-quality education and that front-line services are maintained at an equally high level, all the while as we advance the strategic objectives of our university. This budget, if approved, involves hiring a limited number of additional staff members and up to 14 new faculty members, the most in a single year in our 99-year history, in order to support our growing student numbers.

            Our budget year 2019-2020 is coming to an end and at this point we are expecting a surplus, as is necessary for an independent institution and normal for CUE. We do, however, need to continue to exercise budget restraint throughout March in order to reach our targets.

Day on the Hill in Ottawa:

On February 4 I participated in the Universities Canada Day on the Hill in Ottawa. This comprised of 18 university presidents from across Canada working in various groups to advocate for universities on Parliament Hill. Advocacy topics included setting up federal funds targeting knowledge mobilization, cyber security, infrastructure, international research collaborations, and Indigenous education. I had the pleasure of meeting with the Deputy Minister of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship and 4 MPs (one NDP, one Liberal, and two Conservatives) at which each of the advocacy topics was addressed. I also attended a group dinner with Minister Navdeep Bains, and a separate networking reception with 24 MPs and Senators, along with a number of award-winning Canadian researchers. Immediately on arrival in Ottawa I took the opportunity to meet with our MP Kerry Diotte, following which he was kind enough to give me a ‘behind the scenes’ tour of Parliament House.

New CUE intellectual property policy:

For some years now we have been spinning our wheels on the development and approval of a new Intellectual Property (IP) policy. Our current policy, which comes from the days of our old Faculty Handbook, is outdated, does not properly reflect some of the administrative and other modern realities surrounding IP and commercialization, and is not in alignment with IP policies at most significant post-secondary institutions. That policy is currently incorporated into the Collective Agreement with the Faculty Association, and so changes to it that affect the bargaining unit must be approved both by CUE and the Faculty Association. Despite CUE having followed through on an agreement to prepare updated drafts for consideration and revision, we have been unable to reach an agreement with the Faculty Association or receive any concrete suggestions on how to improve the draft policy that administration has advanced. It is in Concordia’s best interests to have an updated policy in place at this point, and so for that reason I am in the process of asking the Board to approve a robust new IP policy for the university. Regrettably, faculty members and academic service officers will be excluded from that new policy, and they will continue to operate according to the old policy pending any updated agreement with them.

Pride Club:

Our newly reformed CUE Pride Club is back after a brief hiatus, holding its first meeting on Friday, February 7. Thank you to the CSA for their leadership in resurrecting this club, our Student Life and Learning team for their support, and to our Dr. Carmen Arth for agreeing to act as Faculty Advisor to the group. The Pride Club will once again engage in a variety of activities, welcoming all who would like to participate. 

Performance metrics:

As part of the new Campus Alberta funding model we will be provided with performance metrics that will ultimately account for up to 40% of our annual government funding. Establishment of these for the Independent Academic Institutions, including CUE, will follow establishment of them at the public institutions. We are well prepared for this, having provided the Government of Alberta with a set of four metrics that the IAIs agree would be appropriate measures of our performance, along with a set of metrics that we believe would not be appropriate. The metrics we believe would be appropriate include measures of student satisfaction, modest domestic and international student growth, and completion rates. I have also provided the Minister with a set of additional suggested metrics specific to CUE. These include measures of increased applications for external research funding and an increased number of Ministry-approved certificate programs.

Institutional travel:

The Minister of Advanced Education has asked all Alberta post-secondary institutions to exercise restraint with respect to travel. Although CUE’s provincial, national, and international presence requires travel in order to advance the business of the university, this request for restraint is noted and indeed aligns with our policy and practice at CUE. With the exception of routine domestic meetings for VPs and our student recruitment team, I personally pre-approve all institutional travel. This approval requires that, with rare exceptions, multiple CUE representatives do not travel to the same event and that restraints such as staying at hotels where tariffs are modest, or at least consistent with norms in the location being visited, are implemented. CUE’s per-diem rates have recently been adjusted to reflect three daily segments as opposed to automatic full day per-diems when travel is only for partial days, and our administrative procedures regarding expense claims are being streamlined to save administrative costs.

Senior administrators are prudent with travel and have found significant efficiencies by strategically combining trips so that multiple necessary meetings can be attended in a single journey. In addition, some trips by senior administrators have been partially funded by external stakeholders or partners. An example of this was my January trip to Europe where the University of Vienna paid for my airfare, expenses, and accommodation to attend a conference in Vienna. I added an extra week during which I visited four of our partners in various parts of Europe, with CUE paying only for accommodation in AirB&Bs, internal transportation, and other minor expenses during that additional week.

            While the above does not entirely apply to conference travel from faculty PD fund allocations, those funds are still institutional money and I ask that all employees continue to be prudent and follow policy with respect to their travel expenses to conferences and meetings.

International update:

We have, unfortunately, had to postpone the April 2020 Concert Choir tour of China due to coronavirus concerns. This tour will be rescheduled for a later date. In addition, our Chinese partner universities are unable to recruit cohorts of Chinese students for our 2020 summer program due to the coronavirus outbreak. Complicating matters, the university semester in China has been deferred until further notice, and the Canadian Embassy in China visa office has been closed as of February 3, 2020. CUE has three students currently completing their dual degrees in Beijing. Of these, one has returned to Canada. The other two are registered with the Canadian Embassy in Beijing, are in almost daily contact with our International Office, and are due to return home to Canada this week. Although Lunar New Year celebrations in China have been muted, we hosted a celebration on Thursday, Feb 6, and a Chinese movie night on Feb 8. These events involved collaboration with community organizations such as the Confucius Institute in Edmonton, the Canada-China Friendship Society of Edmonton, the Edmonton Chinese Unity Association, and the ACOAC. Finally, with respect to China, six of CUE’s staff were invited to the Lunar New Year reception hosted by Premier Jason Kenney in the Edmonton Federal Building on Friday Feb 7.

We are looking forward to our first ever Global Partners Day event on March 20th. We have approximately 10 registrants for this event from different partner universities around the world, and they will spend the day with us prior to the Asia Pacific International Conference in Vancouver. We also hosted an Intercultural Day on January 22nd. The event was a success with nine booths each representing a different culture, and several cultural performances. 

We have successfully placed six faculty and staff for Erasmus+ opportunities this year including to Portugal, Spain, Greece, and Poland. We will also be welcoming several visitors to CUE from our partners through Erasmus+. We have recently signed a few new international partnerships. One with Reykjavik University and one with University of Applied Sciences and Arts in Northwestern Switzerland.