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NSCAD's new year

Windsor's report is a rough guide to financial sustainability

NSCAD’s 125th anniversary year may not be as much of a party as it should be.

On November 29 Howard Windsor released his much anticipated report on NSCAD’s financial future—titled NSCAD: Time To Act—to Marilyn More, Minister of Labour and Advanced Education, NSCAD president David Smith and chair to NSCAD board of governors Michael Donovan, (see previous Coast coverage on this development here and here) The report was brought to the board on December 8.

On Tuesday, December 13, Marilyn More presented her remarks on Windsor’s report (available in full here) to the press.

The university will be given a 2.4 million, one time only investment by the province to put a plug in the growing deficit and, in exchange, NSCAD is expected to fully investigate collaboration with other post secondary institutions and develop a sustainable financial plan with the help of a facilitator, who will be appointed by the province) and delivered to Marilyn More by March 31, 2012. More is expecting monthly reports from the facilitator.

NSCAD Board Vice Chair Grant Machem insisted that the board would be “totally open and transparent” but did not confirm the sustainability plan would be made public.

In NSCAD: Time To Act, Windsor pulled no punches, reporting that “NSCAD’s financial problems are not new, sudden or a surprise. They were evident at least three years ago but persisted and grew. NSCAD today is operating at a loss equal to more than 10 per cent of its annual budget. The situation is not sustainable.”

In 2010 the province gave 1.4 million above NSCAD’s 8.5 million provincial operating grant in order for them to stay afloat. This year, the deficit grew by 1 million, now at 2.4 million.

The bulk of the blame for the financial status of the university falls squarely on the Port Campus. The construction of the campus was so urgent that the university continued with the plan despite the fact that 4.75 million in federal money was not coming through and fundraising fell short to the tune of 2.25 million. The province’s contribution of 4.75 million was not enough to accommodate for this shortfall.

More believes that the NSCAD board of governors and administration did not have a realistic idea of the university’s financial situation before Windsor’s report.

In addition to curriculum analysis and reassessment of staffing and programs, the Granville, Academy and Port campuses will also be reviewed, but president David Smith claims that shedding property is not the first priority. He said getting out of a lease is an option, but a labour intensive one that may incur penalties. He suggested a two wave process, the first five years being focused on operations, with larger moves—like property consolidation—being explored after that.

When asked about the possibility of a merger, More said it’s still on the table, but president David Smith said it wasn’t going to happen, preferring instead collaboration and academic partnering. Smith claims there have been no reports so far to suggest that a merger would save the university money.

Should the sustainability plan due on March 31 prove unsatisfactory, the province will “consider options,” asserting that “protecting fine arts education is a priority” but that a solution would have to be enforced, but didn’t want to speculate on what that solution might be, focusing instead on the hope that the university can settle on a sustainable plan over the next 100 days.

President David Smith will be speaking to the NSCAD community at noon on Thursday, December 15 in the Bell Auditorium.

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