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Connect department chairs with budget officers to build engagement around financial data

March 16, 2020, By Alexa Silverman, Senior Director, Student Experience and Well-Being Research

The Planning and Budget Office at the University of Toronto regularly presents a combination of unit-level and institution-level financial data to chairs and deans in order to help them identify areas for growth and investment, increase financial literacy, and strengthen ties between academic and business units.

When deans and chairs lack access to institution-level financial data, they often feel excluded from institution-level financial decisions that have a direct impact on unit-level budgeting and staffing. This lack of clear communication can lead to erosion of trust between administrative and financial units and to financial decisions at the academic unit level that are misaligned with institutional needs.

This can help you structure regular meetings between the central budgeting office, deans, and chairs to foster alignment between unit- and institution-level financial decisions and clarify the types of data that these meetings should include.

High-level financial presentations help to align business and academic units

Although deans and department chairs have access to their respective academic units’ financial data, they often do not have access to financial data at the institution level. This can cause academic leaders to feel disconnected from the university’s business operations and excluded from decisions that affect unit-level budgets and staffing. To improve communication between academic and business units, the University of Toronto’s Planning and Budget Office hosts annual presentations to educate chairs and deans about institutional finances.

Drawing on central expertise

Planning and budget office

  • Experience in interpreting financial data
  • Familiarity with institutional data
  • Can integrate institutional context, college comparisons

Educating unit leaders

College-level finance presentations

  • Institutional context: Includes revenue and expense trends, review of basic budget concepts
  • College opportunities: Identifies structural budget problems, comparisons to other colleges, key growth drivers

The Planning and Budget Office’s presentations combine institution-level and unit-level financial data in order to help chairs and deans identify prospective areas for growth and investment within their departments or colleges. In a typical year they host approximately 30 presentations that reach between 400 and 500 people.

The presentations foster a sense of transparency and collegiality between business leaders and academic leaders. The result at the University of Toronto has been a culture of stronger financial literacy, clearer communication between previously siloed groups, and increased understanding among academic leaders about how their financial choices impact the broader university community.

Alexa Silverman

Senior Director, Student Experience and Well-Being Research

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