Prioritization means that we allocate our resources to support clear priorities. This means allocating and also re-allocating resources. The idea that a university will always grow rapidly, and be able to keep everything it has while only ever expanding or adding on, would not be a sustainable way of thinking. While our university and its colleges must miss no opportunity to try to expand our resources, prioritization in an era of constrained resources is importantly about reallocating from one thing to another – from lower priorities to higher ones.
The theme of resource reallocation is an important element for a TransformUS action plan.
At the university level we will be looking for a coherent pattern of partial disinvestments in some areas and incremental investments into others. The pattern of moderate cuts will be informed by the patterns of the task force recommendations, especially those in quintile 3 (“retain with reduced resourcing”), among other factors. The pattern of investments will be shaped in part by quintile 1 (“candidate for increased resourcing”) task force recommendations. Investments will include new faculty positions and other high-priority expenditures, mostly in 2015/16 and beyond.
So TransformUS will result at the university-wide level in a pattern of modest differential cuts and investments in coming years. But that is only one aspect of prioritization.
The TransformUS support services task force observed a deficiency in “prioritization of existing activities vs. proposed new ones.” We agree with this criticism.
While new ideas are proposed by units in the integrated planning process, these frequently have the character of a wish-list of requests for new resources – and the requests in every cycle vastly exceed the less than 1% of the operating budget set aside by PCIP in the academic priorities fund to support university plan priorities. The result is that good new ideas, which colleges have said are important, go unfunded. Areas that may need to grow do not understand how to access resources.
In future, prioritization will need to be part of the thinking of every college and unit in allocating its own envelope of resources. Prioritization is not only about how PCIP allocates the 1% of the operating budget that is under its direct control, but how the other 99% is allocated as well.
It is not surprising that budget prioritization becomes more important in an era of scarce resources. The integration of planning, budgeting and results assessment will be an important theme in the years ahead.
Brett and Greg