budget conversations

Budget Information Sessions 2024-25

Simon Fraser University is committed to financial accountability and transparency. Guided by our four priorities outlined in What’s Next: The SFU Strategy, we are working towards our vision to be a leading research university advancing an inclusive and sustainable future.

To help make informed financial decisions, and in alignment with our requirements in Policy B10.05, the university creates a yearly budget that guides academic program delivery and administration of the university. The budget process is a collaborative effort led by the Offices of the Vice-President, Finance and Administration and the Office of the Provost and Vice-President, Academic.

Budget Cycle

Fiscal year-end & outlook updated (Mar –Jun): Financial results from the previous year are reported and financial projections for the next year are updated.
Options considered (Jul – Aug): Given the financial outlook and the need to balance the budget, different options for managing financial constraints are considered—such as key priorities, trade-offs, value for money and the long-term resiliency of SFU.
Campus discussions (Sep – Oct): Budget meetings are held with various groups across the university.
Budget development (Nov – Jan): Detailed budgets are developed for 365 departments across the university, reviewed and approved by those with fiscal responsibility for those areas, including Chairs, Directors, Deans and VPs.
Review & approval (Jan – Mar): The budgets are collected, reviewed and  sent to SFU’s Board of Governors for approval. 

Budget Information Session 2024/25 - Recording

At the Budget Information Session 2024/25, held on Nov 1, 2023, and led by Martin Pochurko (Vice-President, Finance and Administration) and Dilson Rassier (Provost and Vice-President, Academic), participants learned about SFU's budget process, priorities and challenges. Watch this recording to understand SFU's budgetary planning and management and engage effectively with your department and unit budget leads.

To learn more about the key findings and outcomes from this year’s budget info session, please refer to the 2024-25 Budget Information Session Summary

2023-2024 Budget 

To learn more about the key findings and outcomes from last year’s budget info sessions, please refer to the 2023-24 Budget Conversations Summary.

You can also explore the 2023 Annual Financial Report for an overview of the university’s financial health. Following the report’s release, we communicated to the university community, providing context and insights into our financial status and resource allocation. To learn more, visit the faculty and staff dashboard.

The 2023 Statement of Financial Information (SOFI) is now available.   

Recently completed projects

In the past year, we successfully advanced several long-term commitments identified by our community and outlined in What’s Next: The SFU Strategy as key priorities. These strategic long-term investments in areas including student experience, student housing, financial support, reconciliation, equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) and climate action strengthen our academic mission and community.  

Uphold Truth and Reconciliation

Engage in Global Challenges

  • In 2022, SFU became the first university to invest in the Vancity Community Investment Bank with a $10 million deposit, financing affordable housing, green energy and social projects locally and across Canada.
  • As a leader in responsible investment, the university continued to divest from fossil fuels, deepening our commitment to sustainability and climate action. We redirected more than $100 million of our fixed-income portfolio to fossil-fuel-free funds.

Transform the SFU Experience

  • SFU’s Board of Governors approved a scholarship contribution of $5,400 to all eligible Ph.D. students entering programs this fall and those in the first four years of their program, which will impact 800 doctoral research students. The next step in the plan will set funding minimums of guaranteed support for all eligible PhD students for the incoming 2024-2025 term.
  • Over 800+ scholarships, awards and bursaries are offered to undergraduate and graduate students (including international students) as part of SFU’s financial aid and support.
  • SFU opened two housing projects—the Courtyard Residence and graduate and family housing—on the Burnaby campus. On-campus housing both improves the student experience and relieves pressure on the rental housing market in B.C., and we are committed to continued expansion of student housing under our Residence and Housing Plan.
  • SFU IT continued to improve WiFi connectivity across the campus to enhance working, learning and engaging online. 
  • The new state-of-the art 24/7 Dining Commons opened in Fall 2022, providing the community with another dining and social space.  

Make a Difference for B.C.

  • SFU is taking steps to become a living wage employer for all employees. This will include adding a Living Wage requirement to contracts so that contracted workers in food services, cleaning and other services are guaranteed a living wage by their employers.

What is the size of the university's budget? 

The university's overall consolidated budget is $864 million for 2023-24. A significant portion of the budget ($179 million) is ‘restricted’ funding from government agencies, donors or companies. These ‘restricted’ funds can only be spent on specific activities, such as research, student support, endowments, and capital renewal projects.

Outside of the restricted funds, the university's operating budget is $642 million for 2023-24. This funding provides for student support (undergraduate and graduate scholarships and bursaries), student services, academic program delivery, and the university's day-to-day operating and administrative costs, including IT, utilities, maintenance, and janitorial services.  

What is the university’s current financial projection?

Similar to other Canadian post-secondary institutions, SFU faces a financial shortfall in the 2023/24 fiscal year due to inflationary pressures and a shortfall in international student tuition.

There are also certain financial obligations that are unique to SFU in comparison with other universities and impact the overall budget, including a full divestment from fossil fuels by 2025 and Living Wage Employer certification. SFU remains committed to these initiatives and they are part of the overall cost considerations. 

In response, SFU has been actively promoting cost-saving and efficiency initiatives among staff and faculty members. We also continue to explore new forms of revenue generation, find efficiencies and strategically allocate resources to ensure our institution's long-term financial stability and growth.  
The university remains committed to advancing its academic mission and achieving the key initiatives outlined in "What's Next: The SFU Strategy." This includes supporting student housing, grad student scholarships, reconciliation and becoming a living wage employer.

We expect that these enrollment trends and the effects of inflation will continue, and SFU's budget will remain tight over the next few years. As we navigate these challenging times, we will ask faculty and staff to continue making smart financial decisions, reduce spending where possible, and explore opportunities for operational efficiencies, cross-institutional collaboration, and revenue generation.  

Where does the university get its operating funding from?

Operating funding is almost entirely provided by government operating grants (44 per cent) and tuition and student fees (51 per cent), as well as other unrestricted revenues (5 per cent).

What does the SFU operating fund support? 

Most of the operating expense budget (74 percent) goes toward compensation for the university's faculty, staff, and students. The remainder of the budget (26 percent) is allocated to supplies and various expenses such as student support (including undergraduate and graduate scholarships, awards and bursaries), improving IT infrastructure, maintaining facilities, renewal and acquisition of the library's collection, among other initiatives. 

What is SFU's budget cycle?

  • Fiscal Year End & Outlook Updated: Financial results from the previous year are reported, and the financial projections for the next year are updated.
  • Campus conversations: Meetings regarding budgets and priorities are held, student feedback is gathered on fees and priorities, and options are considered.
  • Development: Priorities are established and resources are designated. Detailed budgets are developed for departments across the university, reviewed and approved by those with fiscal responsibility for the areas (such as Chairs, Directors, Deans and VPs).
  • Review and Approval: Budgets are collected, reviewed and then sent to SFU’s Board of Governors for approval.

What is the budget process? How are decisions on the budget made and communicated?

The Budget Office has a dual reporting structure, reporting to both the Provost and Vice President, Academic, and the Vice-President, Finance and Administration. This transition to shared responsibility for the university budget and budget process will ensure that financial and operational decisions at SFU are made through an academic lens.  

The budget process is a collaboration between the Office of the Provost and Vice-President, Academic, the Office of the Vice-President, Finance and Administration and supporting administrative units. SFU follows a decentralized budget model, meaning that the faculties and supporting units are responsible for ensuring they have a balanced budget within their portfolio.  

As of December 2023, the university has established a Chief Budget Officer (CBO) role, which will be held by the Provost, establishing the Provost as the primary executive responsible for the university’s budget. This role is accountable for developing a budget strategy and realizing investment and revenue generation opportunities, including those related to systems transformation, enhanced research teaching and learning supports, and internationalization.

During the annual planning cycle (September – October), SFU actively engages with key internal groups and provides information sessions for the upcoming budget cycle for faculty and staff. These information sessions allow teams to engage more fully with the budget leads within their portfolios who develop their team’s budgets. The budget allocations are finalized in November.

The primary aim of the process is ensuring the long-term financial sustainability of SFU, prioritizing the academic mission, student experience and financial support, and the university’s ability to deliver on the priorities outlined in the SFU What’s Next strategy.

The budget is informed by critical economic and political factors, risk assessments, and the University Act of Canada. Global conflicts, shortfalls in international enrollments and increased inflation present key challenges for SFU as it plans for 2024/25.  

Where do my tuition fees go?

SFU continues to provide outstanding student experience and support for students in need. For every $1 in tuition fees collected, roughly 75 cents go to the academic mission (teaching, research, and student support), and 25 cents to provide educational facilities and services (heat, electricity, etc.).

How does the budget process at SFU address affordability for students?

We actively seek opportunities to address student affordability challenges and minimize increases to tuition fees. Finding cost savings for students continues to be a priority for this budget. 

A student affordability committee comprised of eight members of the Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS) and Graduate Student Society (GSS) (in addition to four university administrative staff) meets twice a year to explore solutions on various affordability-related topics such as food security, housing, access to affordable transit, access to course materials, etc.

SFU is addressing students' financial challenges by increasing the 2023/24 budget for scholarships, bursaries, and awards by $1.3 million. 

Out of a total budget of 49.2 million, the university’s operating budget provides support of $29.9M, and external funding provides the remaining $19.3 million.  Below is an overview:

  • Scholarships, bursaries, and awards – administered by AVPSI and funded with operating dollars are $16.8 million.
  • Scholarships, bursaries, and awards – administered by Graduate Studies and funded with operating dollars are $12 million.
  • Budgeted by other areas and funded with operating dollars is the balance of the $29.9 million.
  • The remaining balance of $19.3 million in financial support is funded through endowments and external grants (i.e. Specific purpose), etc.
  • Also, the additional $2.5 million graduate student funding – Board of Governors approved - for graduate student scholarship funding in 2023/24 was provided to PhD students who were within the first 12 terms of their program.

Students with demonstrated financial need are encouraged to apply for the general SFU bursary program each term. Please refer to student services for details on the application process and key dates.

Over 800+ scholarships, awards, and bursaries can be found in our financial aid database.

You can easily search which of SFU’s financial aid funding opportunities you may qualify for by narrowing down your search using different criteria:

  • Undergraduate or Graduate
  • Type of assistance
  • Faculty
  • Term of study
  • Citizenship status
  • Recipient (e.g., Indigenous, mature students, etc.)

Why is tuition for international students higher than for domestic students? 

SFU does not receive provincial support for international students, so the total costs of delivering these programs and services are reflected in the tuition fees. Many factors are considered when setting fees, including student affordability, how it influences students' choices, what programs SFU hopes to grow, comparative fees at other institutions, and institutional and individual inflation pressures.

SFU supports international students through bursaries and is one of the few Canadian schools to do so. Moreover, our graduate programs don't have differential fees for international students except in a few instances.

How will the federal government announcement about putting a cap on international student permit approvals affect SFU?

SFU executives have been in contact with the provincial government regularly since the federal announcement and they have been supportive of our concerns.  While the specific caps on international student numbers have not yet been determined, the provincial government is committed to supporting research-intensive universities like SFU as much as possible. There has been positive movement towards more regulation of private post-secondary institutions which could provide more room for public institutions like SFU to thrive. 

The caps will not apply to graduate level degree programs. It applies to all other graduate programs such as graduate diplomas and certificates.

Reliance on international tuition is a reality that many, if not all, universities in Canada are facing right now. Regardless of the outcome on international student caps, SFU recognizes there is a need to manage this part of our budget and that we cannot continue to depend on international students to make things work. While SFU remains committed to increasing international student numbers, there is also a robust international plan in place that goes beyond student recruitment. We are working to secure additional revenue streams and create new forms of revenue generation through key international partnerships and initiatives that are aligned with our academic mission and values.

Is there a budget surplus? If so, can't we use that instead of charging students more for tuition? 

Audited financial statements are a snapshot taken at the end of the fiscal year. The budget surplus accounts for unspent funds and does not consider the timing differences associated with inflows and outflows for commitments.

It's important to note that funds are often given to SFU for specific purposes. The 'surplus' funds related to these committed project expenses often relate to timing and delays in the project.

It's also important to know that surplus funds can only be used once and cannot be used for annual ongoing expenses like salaries, as there needs to be a guarantee that funds required for salaries are available year-to-year.

The budget for the current and future year will be tight. As previously shared with leadership, there is a shortfall in international enrolments, and tuition increases are limited. The university anticipates targeted budget reductions in order to deliver a balanced budget.

Separate from donations, how are operational budget surpluses dealt with? Are they also put into the endowment and if they are, how are they governed? 

Operational budget surpluses are usually due to timing differences and often committed for specific and expected purposes. If an operating unit has a surplus, they may allocate some of it for internal research projects, specific projects, or buying assets. When creating the annual budget, the university considers the available surplus funds, with the aim of using the resources effectively to support the university’s goals and priorities.

It's important to note that the university does not contribute to endowments. Endowments are funded by donations and are restricted for specific purposes as determined by the donors. 

Can SFU use endowment funds to address budget concerns?

Endowments are funded by donations, with the donors specifying the intended use of these funds. The uses can range from research, scholarships and bursaries to teaching & learning, athletics, and community engagement.

Therefore, while SFU's endowment funds can offer financial support in certain areas and indirectly reduce financial pressure from the institution's operating budget, the university cannot directly use them to offset budget concerns unless those concerns relate to the donor-specified uses of the endowment funds.

In 2023, SFU's endowment allocated $26M towards its specified support areas. 

Is there a contingency fund (outside of the budget plan) that the University has access to? If there is, what is it, how big is it and how is it governed or allocated?  

The university holds $62.8 million in reserves, representing around 7% of the total revenues. This reserve is not considered a separate contingency fund. The funds in the reserves are those committed to research projects and expected payments to be paid upon completion of projects that were not concluded prior to the end of the fiscal year. A healthy reserve fund is best practice and essential to ensure the university's operations remain stable in the face of financial uncertainties and for fulfilling long-term obligations.

As the university deals with increasing costs, its reserves have declined in recent years. Some of these reserves are expected to be utilized to address budgetary challenges in various areas during the current year.

The reserves are held by different units and are assigned to different projects. The departmental reserves are evaluated annually, and the commitments against these reserves are taken into consideration during the budget planning process.  

What is the university doing to control spending? 

With lower enrollments and rising costs, we expect the next few years to be about budget restraint. We must collaborate across all the university departments and contribute to cost-saving measures, as SFU is required to end the fiscal year with a balanced budget. We will continue to focus on making smart financial decisions, exploring cost-saving opportunities, finding efficiencies and strategically allocating resources to ensure our institution's long-term financial stability and growth.

SFU is also committed to the benchmarking program (UniForum@SFU) that compares our administrative costs to similar institutions in Canada and internationally. Now in its fourth year, this program supports resource shifting rather than resource elimination to drive improvement and reduce spending.

Hiring Freeze

As of November 2, the university has instituted a hiring freeze as a cost containment measure. For information about the hiring freeze, please see the hiring freeze FAQs.  


The university will restructure certain areas of its operations with an aim to increase efficiency and reduce duplication where possible. For information, please see the restructuring FAQs.

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