A new University Accountability and Sustainability Act introduced today, April 22, will require increased accountability and cost control at Nova Scotia’s 10 universities.
The legislation requires greater accountability for universities through more standard financial reporting. Universities will also have to set outcomes and measure progress.
The legislation will allow universities to restructure themselves if they are in serious financial trouble, giving them greater cost control.
“Government is working hard to get the province’s financial house in order, and we expect the institutions we fund to do the same,” said Labour and Advanced Education Minister Kelly Regan. “Accountability shouldn’t be left to chance; it should be law.”
Universities must provide financial reports and updated financial forecasts every year.
The act also sets out a revitalization planning process for universities to restructure financial and academic affairs. This is intended as a tool of last resort.
“Universities across the country are working to rein in costs and balance budgets,” said Ms. Regan. “Over the last five years, some Nova Scotia universities were struggling financially and came to government for help. That can’t continue. This legislation will help catch problems before they become emergencies and gives universities a process to get back on solid footing if they need it.”
Once the university’s governing body decides to restructure, the minister would appoint outside advisors and a facilitator who would consult students, staff, faculty, unions and other stakeholders.
Revitalization plans will consider a wide range of issues that can either cut costs or raise revenue. Those issues could include research and learning goals, collaboration with other universities and partners, staffing, and the impact of the plan on all students.
A university in the midst of collective bargaining could extend negotiations beyond the end of the planning process, if the institution can show it is at risk of financial collapse. This information must be independently verified by a third-party financial professional.
Once a plan is submitted, the minister can include conditions and can withhold funding if the conditions are not met.
“University presidents are supportive of the goals of this legislation,” said Ray Ivany, president of Acadia University and past chair of the Council of Nova Scotia University Presidents. “The majority of our operating budgets come from government and tuition revenue and we’re committed to being effective stewards of these funds.”
The legislation is the first of its kind in Canada.