January 5, 2021
Dear members of the McGill community,
I write to confirm the University’s final budget for FY2021 was approved by the Board of Governors on 10 December 2020. While we have been able to reduce expenses substantially, the savings will not be sufficient to offset entirely the loss of revenue we will experience this year. Consequently, the FY2021 budget anticipates an operating deficit of $13.1 million.
In light of this, the expense control measures implemented in spring 2020 must remain in place for at least the remainder of the current fiscal year, and are reflected in the final FY2021 budget. These measures include, primarily, University-wide deferral of non-essential expenditures, the suspension of tenure-track and contract academic recruitment, and of the hiring of administrative and support staff. Merit-based salary increases were deferred to 6 December 2020 and have been implemented as intended. However, the University’s enrolment-driven revenues remain at this point below the level that would allow increases to be retroactive to 1 June 2020.
Typically, fully 80% of the University’s annual operating revenues are enrolment-driven in the form of operating grants from the Quebec government and tuition and fees paid by students. A further 15% of revenues in a typical year are derived from the sale of goods and services (e.g., residences and food services) and likewise depend on the presence of students (as well as faculty and staff) on our campuses. Each of these revenue streams is necessary to ensure that academic programs are funded, research facilities are maintained, and that University services continue to be available.
Enrolment headcounts for the 2020-2021 academic year are on par with last year, with revenue from tuition and fees matching the projections in the FY21 provisional budget. However, despite COVID-specific support provided by the Quebec government, enrolment-driven grant revenue will be less than what was anticipated. Moreover, revenue from the sale of goods and services is expected to be reduced by almost half.
In a typical year, more than 75% of our operating revenue goes toward salary and benefits for our academic, administrative and student employees, and toward student aid. This year, given the reduction in revenues, the proportion will exceed 80%. University operations have continued at pace throughout this exceptional year, driven by the thousands of staff members who have maintained the quality of McGill’s academic programs, and ensured that the operations of the University continued. I appreciate the cooperation and efforts of the entire community, especially those who experienced deferred salary increases, in adjusting to these measures.
Looking ahead to the fiscal year 2021-2022, I am cautiously optimistic that we will be able to return to more normal operations, and that revenues will begin to return to more typical levels. But much remains uncertain, and we therefore must remain vigilant and continue to reduce expenses wherever possible. I appreciate that such uncertainty is frustrating and stressful, and I thank each of you for your ongoing commitment to the strength and success of McGill.
Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic)