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External Report on uOttawa Financial Statements (2017-2022)

In February 2023, the APUO published our analysis of uOttawa’s financial situation. Members will recall that in this document we challenged both the Central Administration’s claim that uOttawa is experiencing a financial crisis and its use of this claim to justify the imposing of wide-ranging Faculty and service operational budget cuts. Since then, the Central Administration has continued its efforts at fomenting fear about our university’s financial situation despite uOttawa maintaining an AA2 credit rating with the DBRS, Moody’s and S&P credit rating agencies.[1] Moody’s defines an AA2 rating as high quality and subject to very low risk.[2]

During late spring 2023, the APUO commissioned an external analysis of uOttawa’s financial statements for the period spanning 2017 to 2022. The analysis was completed by Cameron and Janet Morrill, both of whom are accounting professors from the University of Manitoba who specialize in auditing and financial accounting in the university sector. They have previously completed analyses of university finances for a number of Canadian post-secondary institutions. 

Their key findings:

  1. In 2018, uOttawa’s total operating grants declined by $64 million, equivalent to 17% of 2017 operating grants, and have not changed significantly since then. However, other revenue sources, especially tuition and fees, have done well with total revenue having increased by 21% since 2017. International student tuition fees, in particular, have played a key role in offsetting the decline of provincial funding during this period.
  2. Throughout the past six years, uOttawa’s total excess of revenues over expenses has been volatile, with this volatility being largely driven by erratic changes in the fair value of the university’s investments. During this period, uOttawa’s excess of operating revenues over operating expenses (i.e., revenues and expenses other than amortization, interest, and changes in fair value of investments) has been consistently positive.
  3. uOttawa’s stock of non-externally-restricted cash and investments (i.e., government grants, student tuition fees and revenues from so-called ancillary services including student residence services, conference and catering services, campus bookstore sales)[3] increased significantly in 2020 but has since returned to pre-2020 levels. On April 30, 2022 (the end of the 2021-2022 fiscal year), unrestricted cash and investments stood at $774.2 million.
  4. uOttawa’s level of unrestricted cash and investments, together with its consistent financial operating performance, suggest its financial condition is solid and stable.

Professors Morrill and Morill conclude that despite significant reductions in provincial funding, uOttawa’s operations have been consistently profitable over the past years.

We invite members to read the complete analysis here.

The University of Ottawa released its 2023 financial statements at the September 26 Board of Governors meeting. The APUO has asked Professors Morrill and Morrill to create an analysis that takes account of these most recent statements. This update will be shared with members in the near future.

[1] See University of Ottawa 2022-2023 Financial Results, p. 47. 

[2] See Moody’s Investor Service, 2023, Ratings and Definitions

[3] Non-externally-restricted funds can be used for any purpose consistent with the mission of the organization and are generally those used to pay operating costs.