U of T budget model wins gold for public sector innovation
March 11, 2013
TORONTO, ON – A new, innovative approach to budgeting has earned the University of Toronto a gold medal in the IPAC/Deloitte Public Sector Leadership Awards – created to recognize excellence, innovation and impact in the public sector.
The new approach – one that relied on faculties to craft their own creative solutions to the challenge of working with limited resources – was adopted so that the university could make better-informed decisions and achieve a transparent, rational allocation of funds.
“Our advisory committee was impressed by the innovative approach the U of T budget model represents,” said Robert P. Taylor, chief executive officer of IPAC. “But even more important, we were impressed that the model can, and is, being used by other institutions across the country. That means the benefit is not just to one institution but to an entire sector.”
The new process has been so successful, the university is now helping other institutions adopt the same approach.
“With this initiative, we’ve certainly been innovative but it’s not been innovation for its own sake,” said Professor Scott Mabury, vice-president of operations. “We’ve also generated very substantial value for the institute’s mission. And with other universities now implementing the same processes I think that’s definitely validated… adoption is the real measure of impact.
“Some universities, with our help, have been able to adopt much of our model.”
Members of the task force that helped develop the new budget model faced a huge challenge, Mabury said: how to find a model that provided incentives for faculties to generate revenues and cut costs while still funding academic priorities and supporting collaborative research and teaching.
The resulting model generated robust debate when it was introduced in the 2006/2007 academic year but today it ensures that academic vision and strategy are aligned with the financial information needed to make critical budget decisions, Mabury said.
The new model takes a rigorous approach to calculating the true cost of academic programs in the different divisions of Canada’s largest university. Tuition and operating grant revenues for each unit are now measured against its share of central costs such as caretaking, human resources, utilities, information technology and finance.
The increase in transparency helped debunk some myths as to which faculties were subsidizing others, Mabury said. It also helped administrators find creative ways to cut costs. For example, the Temerty Temerty Faculty of Medicine reconfigured its use of space on campus, freeing up some of their space, which allowed the university to create the new Banting and Best Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
In addition to leadership and innovation, the IPAC/Deloitte judges consider criteria such as impact, boldness, execution, results, collaboration and replicability. Other winners in the education division of the IPAC/Deloitte awards were McGill University (silver) and CEGEP de Sherbrooke (bronze).
“There was real passion, commitment and an overall can-do attitude with this year’s winners,” said George Ross, Ontario Deputy Minister and IPAC President. “These projects demonstrate originality and a real drive to find efficiencies during a very challenging economic environment.
“These public sector leaders are making a difference.”
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