Western University is in a strong position to invest more deeply in its academic and research mission, as demonstrated in its 2021-22 budget.
“This budget helps us deepen our engagement in the world – locally and globally – as we nurture an environment where people can thrive, create, collaborate, make a difference,” said Western President Alan Shepard. “It also invests in the renewal and intensification of the superior student experience Western is known for.”
The university has continued to thrive in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic, Shepard said. “And this budget sets a path for a renewed vision that will outlast the present challenges.”
The pandemic prompted a series of emergency steps in last year’s budget to boost support for students and ensure the university’s stability amid global uncertainty. While this is the second of Western’s pandemic budgets, it focuses squarely on the future.
“With this spending plan, we’re connecting the dots to link our strategic investments with excellence in research, teaching and students’ overall educational experience,” said Shepard.
Approved April 22 by the university’s Board of Governors, the budget sets base and one-time spending at $829 million, with capital spending coming in at $153 million.
Faculty and staff renewal
The budget supports the addition of 94 new faculty members, including 77 tenured/ probationary and 17 limited-term. The faculty appointments will take place across Faculties and prioritize scholarship and research activities as well as new initiatives, including interdisciplinary work.
It also supports the addition of over 140 staff across many faculties and units to support student experience and the university’s academic and research goals.
Enhancing the student experience
Hundreds of students will benefit from enhanced financial support for the summer undergraduate research internships and teaching support internships. There will be a sizable further investment in academic advising, as well as work-integrated learning opportunities.
Western is pushing to remove barriers to student success, with more accessibility supports for people with disabilities and a new office of equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI).
New facilities to support student well-being and health will include a new university gathering hub and a year-round, multi-sport fieldhouse providing indoor recreation space.
Scholarship and research
Western is investing $15-million in an endowment to support academic priorities across all disciplines. A postdoctoral fellowship program will expand as part of a strategy to attract and retain top-tier domestic and international talent.
The Western Research Chairs program will see additional capacity and high-visibility appointments contributing to the university’s strategic research objectives.
Supported with $6-million in one-time funding, a new clinical research platform will enable affordable and creative approaches to randomized studies, and provide wraparound support for Western investigators, including methodological expertise, data capabilities and streamlined ethical review processes.
An interdisciplinary focus in all academic activities continues to be a high priority so that students across a range of studies can use their collective and individual strengths to solve pressing local and world issues.
To complement a relaunch of the Interdisciplinary Research Initiatives Program (IDRIs), the university will fund Interdisciplinary Curriculum Initiatives (IDCIs). Under the direction of the Provost, the IDCIs will provide faculty members with dedicated time to design interdisciplinary curricula across all courses and programs.
The Centre for Teaching and Learning will become home to an EDI Pathways program as the university takes a systematic approach to institutionalized equity goals. Instructors will be equipped with additional EDI knowledge and resources so they can make changes in curriculum and improve students’ experiences. Additional investment will support Indigenizing the university curriculum.
A sustainable future
Significant investment will support greater environmental responsibility, including $10-million to support campus-wide sustainability initiatives and a new, $1-million green innovation fund.
Continued deep energy retrofits that re-engineer existing buildings to make them more efficient will help reduce Western’s carbon footprint as it works towards significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
From a net-zero-energy space for budding entrepreneurs to an Indigenous learning facility, building plans for the coming year will help transform campus into a more sustainable, inclusive place.
As part of the university’s open space strategy, the budget provides support for projects aimed at creating a safer, more pedestrian-friendly campus, and significant enhancements to outdoor and gathering areas.
Implementing strategic priorities
Following months of consultations, the new strategic plan is to be presented to the Senate and Board of Governors this Spring. This year’s budget anticipates a $20-million investment to begin implementing some of the strategic priorities. Additional investments have been allotted to supporting Western’s next fundraising campaign and enhancing the university’s central communications function.
“Over this past year, I have witnessed tremendous effort from all corners of campus, colleagues working together to continue our teaching and research mission, support our students, and prioritize the health and safety of our community,” said Shepard. “We know the pandemic will end, and this budget, coupled with the strategic plan, will set a strong course for our future.”