Restructuring - Frequently Asked Questions

Last updated Thursday, April 11 at 2:00 p.m.

About budget reduction

Why is SFU making budget reductions? 

Along with other prominent universities in the country, SFU is facing budget challenges. SFU experienced financial challenges in 2023–24 due to a decline in international student enrolments, losses on divestments, and rising interest ratesSince 2023, the university has implemented several cost-saving measures, including encouraging fiscal restraint and an administrative hiring freeze. These measures have helped, but more efforts will be needed to manage ongoing budget pressures. 

The provincial government requires universities to produce balanced budgets and SFU is taking immediate actions with long-term sustainability in mind. This challenge also presents an opportunity for us to innovate and be resourceful in how we operate. As we respond, we will continue to maintain SFU’s standing as a leading research university. 

How did the budget situation get this serious? 

Declining international student enrolment has had an impact on our financial situation, as have other current pressures. Simply put, costs have increased at a higher rate than our revenues and funding.

The main drivers of the budget pressures include a tuition shortfall, unexpected administrative/union pension plan expenses, inflation, needed investments and costs for past commitments.

How many employees will be affected?

The budget shortfall will be recovered through many different actions, including a continued hiring freeze and other measures. We are working with employee groups to determine if a voluntary separation program can be established. Once we know if that program can be offered, we will have a better idea of the number of employees impacted. At this point, we estimate up to two per cent of the total current workforce could be affected, however, this number is based on positions affected not people. With the hiring freeze, many positions that will be eliminated are currently unfilled.  

Financial records show that SFU posted a surplus. Why can’t this be used to address the budget issues? 

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.

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.

What options are available to help me to reduce my budget?  

If you have any questions about the hiring freeze, restructuring and impact on your unit, please connect with your supervisor or department chair. As you navigate changes in your team’s operations, please reach out to PEI Strategic Business Partner (SBP) Services if you are exploring options to manage budget constraints. The SBP will connect to a cross-functional support team that consists of Labour Relations, Compensation and Organization Development. The support team will provide guidance and recommendations related to the immediate and long-term institutional goals in the context of your team’s goals. 

How can I suggest ideas on how the budget challenges can be addressed?  

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. The 2024-25 budget cycle is currently underway and detailed budget are being developed across the university. If you missed the budget info session in early November, you can view the recording and budget FAQ to help you understand how to engage with your department and unit budget leads.

How do we ensure that the university doesn’t find itself in a similar situation in a few years?

The restructure of certain areas of SFU’s operations is to support its long-term success. 

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. See the budget FAQs for more information about the work that takes place each year to manage the budget.

About restructuring

What is the university’s approach to restructuring?

The university will restructure certain areas of its operations with an aim to increase efficiency and reduce duplication where possible. As part of this work, we will also review service levels and identify work that is no longer required. During this restructuring, some administrative job losses can be expected.

Our people have made SFU the remarkable institution it is. We are working hard to do all we can to support employees through this process with care and compassion. The first step is working with unions and employee groups to consider our options for supporting people where staff reductions are needed. 

We will do all we can to support people who will be impacted by these changes. However, we acknowledge how difficult this situation is for everyone.

Will the hiring freeze remain in effect? 

The hiring freeze currently in place will continue into the 24/25 fiscal year. This measure has reduced the university’s costs while ensuring that exceptions are made for critical roles. 

For more information, see hiring freeze FAQ

How will services be impacted as a result of the restructuring? 

The university is working to minimize any impacts on teaching, learning and research activity. The university’s budget committee is working with leaders across the university to determine where and how restructuring should occur to ensure continuity of services and minimize any negative impacts to students and to the overall SFU experience.

Is SFU still moving forward with its commitments to equity, like the living wage?

SFU has always been led by our values, and we will continue to make decisions from that place. We want to ensure affordability for students as we navigate this challenging time. We have also made commitments that adhere to our values, such as becoming a living wage employer and extending more supports to graduate students, and we will honour those priorities.

How are we supporting staff who are feeling overworked? What can we stop doing?

We recognize that the next several months will be a difficult time. Supervisors are being supported to have conversations with their teams about workload, service offerings, and looking at their operations differently.  

We are also asking our staff to look at the way we do things to maximize opportunities for efficiencies across the organization, as well as to stop doing things that are not priorities for the institution. Employees are supported to talk with their supervisor about opportunities to increase efficiency, manage workload based on core priorities and discuss work that could be stopped, paused or improved. 

When will we hear more about the voluntary separation program?

We are working hard to do all we can to support employees through this process with care and compassion and are working with unions and employee groups to consider such options as a voluntary separation program, as well as ensuring appropriate packages and supports. More details about the voluntary separation program will be shared with eligible employees as soon as it is finalized.

What is SFU doing to support students through this transition?

At SFU, students are at the heart of everything we do. The university’s leadership team is working to minimize impacts on students and ensure the continuity of the excellent learning, teaching and research activities that makes us one of Canada’s leading research universities. We acknowledge that the next few months will be difficult for the university, but we are confident that SFU will be stronger as we move forward.

About the Voluntary Employment Separation Program

Who is eligible?

Continuing Excluded employees with more than one year of service are eligible to submit expressions of interest to have their employment with SFU separated. CUPE and APSA haves declined to participate in the voluntary program. Out of respect for CUPE and APSA's role as the negotiating authorities for their members, the university will not offer this program directly to CUPE or APSA employees. 

Will I be informed if my staff submits an expression of interest?

You may be informed if your staff submits an expression of interest. The decision-maker, designated by the Vice-Presidents and Deans of your respective unit, may need to consult with you to make an informed determination. 

Will I be informed of the decisions that impact my staff and/or team?

If your staff submission is selected for separation, you will be notified for operational continuity.

Can staff appeal the decision if their submission is denied?

No, all determinations made are final.

Why am I not involved in the decision-making process that impacts my staff and/or team?

The criteria are based on operational and strategic requirements, which are unique and situational to each unit. The decision-maker of your unit will have more information and may involve you in the decision-making process.

My APSA or CUPE staff are disappointed that the voluntary employment separation program is not available to them. What can I say?

You can encourage them to speak with their APSA or CUPE representative. The university cannot comment on the negotiations or on their decision-making process.

How can I support my staff during this time?

We recommend that you direct staff to the well-being webpage for mental health and wellness support. You can encourage them to speak with their family, financial advisor, and other trusted individuals. Their Union or Association is also available for guidance. Homewood Health, SFU’s Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP) provider, also offers Life Smart Coaching services for financial advice. 

My staff is looking to me for support and answers. What should I do?

This program provides employees with autonomy and choice. You are not to coach employees through their decision. You can encourage them to speak with their family, financial advisor, and other trusted individuals. Their Union or Association is also available for guidance. Homewood Health, SFU’s Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP) provider, also offers Life Smart Coaching services for financial advice. 

For questions regarding Program eligibility and requirements, please ask them to send an email to 

What supports are available to me at this time?