Dalhousie Budget

Welcome to the Dalhousie Budget page, where you'll find up-to-date information about the university's financials.

Latest news

January 15, 2019

Upcoming budget forums - Jan 22 and 24 (NEW DATE)

Faculty, staff and students are invited to attend one of two discussion forums. The forums will include a short presentation on the university’s operating budget, followed by a workshop style discussion on pressures and priorities. Full details.

Context report

Dal's Budget Advisory Committee has released its report on Context for the Development of the 2019-20 Budget [PDF].

Online survey

The committee welcomes your input into priority areas where university resources should be allocated.  

Email comments and contributions to the BAC are welcome at any time through BAC@dal.ca.

Dal's operating budget — at a glance

The operating budget funds the day-to-day operations of the university. It accounts for the majority (70%) of the university’s financial activity. The operating budget for 2018-19 balances revenues and expenditures at $428.4 million.

The operating budget pays for salaries for faculty/staff; student assistance; facilities renewal and upkeep; library acquisitions; and general budgets for Faculties and service units.


  • Just over half of the budget (50.8%) comes from the provincial operating grant, set by the government. Increases have been limited to 1% in recent years.
  • 39.5% comes from tuition fees, set by the university’s Board of Governors.
  • 9.7% comes from other sources, including operating interest and endowment revenue.

Source: BAC projections, 2018-19

Expenses by type

  • More than 3/4 of the budget goes directly to Faculties and service units.
    • Most of this is compensation (salaries, benefits and pension) for faculty and staff (73.6% of the operating budget).
  • Student assistance (8%), facilities/campus renewal (7%) and utilities (5%) also make up significant portions of the operating budget.

Source: BAC projections, 2018-19

Expenses by function

  • 62.8% of the Dal budget goes towards academic expenses.
  • 30.9% goes to service and support, and 6.3% goes to administration.
  • The percentage of Dal's budget spent on academics is above average both nationally (U15 avg: 60.1%) and in Nova Scotia (avg: 54.2%).
    • Dal's admin spending is also lower than its peers (U15 avg: 9.6%; Nova Scotia avg: 12.8%)

Source: Canadian Association of University Business Officers (CAUBO), 2015-16 (most recent data available).

Student assistance

  • Dalhousie spends $67.4M annually on student assistance across all funds (operating, endowment, etc.). This includes scholarships, bursaries and campus employment.
  • Student assistance has grown by approximately $10.4M over the past six years.
  • 7% of the operating budget is devoted to student assistance — above the U15 average of 5.1%.

Source: Dalhousie Financial Services

More about the Dal operating budget 

Dal's budget planning process

Dalhousie's operating budget planning process is coordinated through the Budget Advisory Committee (BAC) — a group chaired by the Provost and consisting of senior leadership, faculty, staff and students. It advises the president on budgetary matters and supports an open and consultative approach to budget discussions at the university.

The BAC engages with faculty, staff, students and university leadership throughout its planning process. See the full timetable.

The BAC makes initial recommendations for the university budget in January/February. Following further review with the Dal community, it releases a final Operating Budget Plan in March/April.

The Board of Governors votes to approve the operating budget at its June meeting. It approves tuition and fees earlier, at its April meeting, so they can be incorporated in time for Student Accounts to begin collecting fees for the summer and fall terms.

Dal's operating budget planning process is based on four principles:

  • The operating budget must be balanced.
  • The university must be financially sustainable.
  • The operating budget is driven by Dalhousie's mission and strategic priorities.
  • Recommendations on the operating budget are transparent.

Balancing the budget

Each year, it costs more and more to run the university. That’s largely because of inflationary costs and scheduled compensation increases for faculty/staff (as outlined in collective agreements). Expenses typically go up by 3-4% annually (prior to any budget reductions being applied).

Dal’s revenues do not keep pace with these costs. An increase of 1% to Dal’s provincial funding (like in recent years) is not enough to cover rising costs. Even applying the largest possible tuition increase for Nova Scotia students (3%) only results in a total revenue increase of about 2%.

That’s why, in most years, balancing the budget requires reducing faculty/unit budgets and increasing tuition revenue. It also forces the university to be strategic in where it makes important investments, given limited resources.

The BAC is targeting a three-year planning horizon for the operating budget. It aims to:

  • Maintain a balance between academic, support and administrative functions;
  • Remove the need for the use of Reserve Funds to balance the budget on an annual basis;
  • Reduce the amount of annual Faculty and Service Unit budget reductions each year of the cycle;
  • Engage in strategies for sustainable funding for both deferred maintenance and IT support to reduce reliance on the operating budget.

Tuition fees

Tuition revenue is critical to Dal’s operating budget, accounting for nearly 40 per cent of revenue. It helps support salaries for faculty/staff, support services, facilities upkeep and other key operating budget expenses.

When funding does not keep pace with rising expenses, tuition revenues — together with cuts to Faculty/service unit budgets — are key to balancing the overall operating budget. One way to do this is to recruit more students and, in some years, this has helped limit the need for further budget cuts. More recently, Dalhousie’s enrolment has held steady, with occasionally slight increases.

For 2018-19, the draft operating budget plan includes a 3% tuition fee increase for all programs (including the international differential fee). This recommendation is in conjunction with a 1.5% reduction to Faculty/service unit budgets.

How do Dalhousie’s tuition fees compare to other universities?
It varies by disciplines — and where a student is from, since Nova Scotia students receive an additional provincial bursary to study at schools in the province. See pages 28-31 of the BAC's supplementary report for comparisons.

International fees
As is the case at universities across Canada, international students pay an additional differential fee to study at Dalhousie. The university’s differential rates are among the lowest of the university’s comparators. Among Canada's leading U15 group of universities, Dal's international fees are $9,000 (34%) less than the median. See pages 32-34 of the BAC's supplementary report for comparisons.

Budget reductions to Faculties/service units

Dalhousie’s operating expenses go up every year, mostly because of planned compensation increases for faculty/staff (as included in agreements with Dal’s employee groups). These are added directly to Faculty and service unit budgets.

When there is a gap between projected revenues and these increases (along with other costs and investments), reductions to Faculty/unit budgets are necessary to balance the overall operating budget.

Under Dalhousie’s budget model, budget reductions are applied to Faculties and all service units, including administrative units, as a percentage, with each determining how best to find cost savings and/or generate revenues and recoveries.

The proposed budget reduction for 2018-19 is 1.5%. This the lowest cut in more than a decade. As part of its three-year planning process, the BAC is recommending that Dalhousie aim to reduce these annual reductions each year over a three-year period.