In 2009, the University of Manitoba's Senate and Board of Governors approved, for the purposes of planning, the Strategic Planning Framework 2009 - 2014 that was intended to guide the major decisions to be made over the ensuing five years. While recognizing the breadth and depth of the University's capacity, it identified areas where it was thought that the allocation of focused effort and resources would allow for the greatest progress in pursuing the University's vision and mission.
An October 2013 report on progress under the Strategic Planning Framework (http://umanitoba.ca/admin/vp_academic/media/October_2013_status_UPDATED_Feb_2014.pdf) identified much progress attained to that point, supported in part by almost $32 million in funding reallocated in support of framework priorities. It also acknowledged there were some improvements that would need to be incorporated in the new plan, such as addressing in greater detail the University's commitment to teaching, research, scholarly work and other creative activities, and the depth of the work required to make meaningful improvements to the University's institutional infrastructure and organizational structures. It also has become clear that the University's commitment to providing an exceptional student experience, rather than being defined as a discrete set of activities, must be integrated within all of the University's programs and services.
The lessons learned in implementing the Strategic Planning Framework 2009-2014 provide important context in charting a course for the next planning period, as will the environment in which the University will be making its decisions.
As a publicly funded institution, the University of Manitoba will be affected significantly by the increasingly-constrained financial environment in the coming years. Governments across the country have been adjusting their approaches to funding universities, choosing to reduce or constrain the growth of operating grants, establish targeted program funding, change eligibility criteria for research funding, and limit the availability of capital. The University of Manitoba in particular will need to respond to ongoing limits on its provincial operating grant, restrictions to its ability to adjust tuition fees to competitive market rates, and limited provincial funding for the research endeavor, while continuing to make the case for increased government support for post-secondary education.
These challenges will occur at a time when the competition for top talent will continue to intensify, and will be compounded by the scope of the investment that is necessary for the University to pursue its priorities. These include its commitment to improving and modernizing its institutional infrastructure, a key ingredient in attracting and retaining exceptional faculty, staff and students and maintaining our commitment to offering a broad range of opportunities to students from a variety of backgrounds. Our current commitment in this area has resulted in a significant investment in information technology, for example, and this need will remain strong for the foreseeable future. So, too, will be the need to continue investments in student support in order to attract top graduate and undergraduate students.
Changing demographics, along with other factors which affect enrolment, are expected to have a significant impact on the University in the coming years. The projected declines in provincial high school graduates and the provincial population aged 18-24 are concerning, but are tempered by factors such as current trends in immigration rates and university participation rates, and international demand for our programs. The implementation of Strategic Enrolment Management targets, both for the University's overall student population as well as for specific categories of students, make it even more important that these factors are monitored on an ongoing basis and their effects understood.
The University will need to continue its efforts to promote institutional sustainability and to pursue the principles of environmental, social and economic sustainability, defined by the World Commission on Environment and Development as meeting ‘the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs'.
Over the past few years, the University has been engaged in what can be described as the largest administrative transformation project in its history. This has involved a range of efforts designed to update the University's processes, modernize and improve the way in which it offers its services, and reorganize its structure. This undertaking has generated financial savings and other efficiencies that have allowed the University to reinvest in high-priority activities, but it also has led to a great deal of change within the organization, which in turn has led to concerns from faculty and staff related to its rate and impacts. The University will need to focus on effective change support and communication, both to address existing challenges being faced by members of its community and to prepare effectively for and implement future changes.
The University of Manitoba has an opportunity to capitalize on the growing desire within its community for increased, more effective and more meaningful engagement, both internally and externally. This has emerged as such a significant area for focus that external engagement is defined as a distinct priority for the University, and internal engagement has become a core feature of how a positive learning and work environment is defined.
The role that the University of Manitoba has evolved to fulfill is unique within the province, as are the impacts it can have in meeting economic and social needs in the province and globally, the opportunities it is able to offer its students, and the connections it is able to forge with other institutions, organizations, and communities. The University's commitment to Indigenous achievement is notable in this regard; not only does it involve a focus on meeting the needs of Indigenous students, but also an intention to work with communities to address a range of pressing issues.