Breaking down UBC’s $3.57 billion 2023/24 budget

UBC’s Board of Governors approved the university’s $3.57 billion budget for the 2023/24 fiscal year at its April 14 meeting.

The university’s budget assumes a total operating revenue of $3.65 billion, and a total operating expense of $3.57 billion — leaving a consolidated surplus of $85 million. The consolidated surplus cannot be used for general operations and is dedicated to specific purposes, such as capital projects and research.

The university’s budget framework is composed of two main components: the operating budget and non-operating funds.

The $2.5 billion operating budget, mainly comprised of tuition and government grants, is put towards things like academic programming and university services.

For the next fiscal year, UBC projects domestic student fees to generate $400 million in revenue and international student fees to generate $657 million. Last December, the Board of Governors voted to increase tuition by two per cent for domestic students, three per cent for returning international students and five per cent for incoming international students.

The $1.1 billion in non-operating funds will come from endowment funds and research grants and will be put towards endowed projects and research projects.

Non-operating funds have more than doubled in eight years, from $500 million in the 2016/17 budget to $1.1 billion this upcoming year.

Most of UBC’s revenue comes from tuition and transfers from the provincial government. The remainder comes from the federal government, sales and services, investments and other sources.

The budget submission emphasized the university’s financial commitments to “strategic investments that advance our academic mission; as well as equity, diversity, and inclusion; our commitments to Truth and Reconciliation; crucial supports for our students; and our response to the climate emergency.”

In total, strategic investments make up just over $184 million of UBC's expenses.

The budget anticipates attracting $708 million in research funding, which is an increase of nearly $50 million from the previous fiscal year. Funding from the Tri-Council — the umbrella term for the federal government’s research-funding units — “is expected to remain flat.”

When the federal budget was announced at the end of March, Interim UBC President Deborah Buszard was critical of the lack of funding committed toward funding sources for post-secondary institution research.

At the faculty level, for the Vancouver campus, the Faculty of Medicine will receive the most funding with nearly $300 million. The Faculty of Arts will receive $220 million and the Faculty of Science will receive $180 million.

The budget also plans for the Vancouver campus’ central support units, the university’s administrative offices, to receive just over $900 million. Most of those funds have been allocated between the Provost and VP academic, VP students and VP finance and operations portfolios.

The draft budget was meant to be approved at the March 31 Board of Governors meeting but was deferred to April after university administrators requested more time to review its “key assumptions … driven by continuing inflationary challenges and economic uncertainty from global events impacting the university as well as to ensure all funding sources are utilized as effectively as possible,” according to the meeting agenda.

A central theme articulated across all aspects of the budget was the impact of inflation on the university’s financial position and planning, repeated several times throughout different sections and documents.

“Although UBC’s long-term financial position remains strong, the university is operating in an environment of fiscal restraint as a result of rising costs and constrained revenue,” the budget submission reads.

“This year, and into future years, the combination of rising salary costs, unprecedented global inflation impacting non-labour costs, and slower growth of domestic and international student enrolment over prior years will require conservative financial strategies and proactive approaches.”