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Financial Sustainability

New system to improve travel and expense processing

By Craig Leroux, Senior Communications Officer

Benefits of the new system include:

  • the partial return to per diems for non-Ontario government funded research travel
  • the ability to access the cloud-based system on the web, or via a mobile device while travelling
  • the capability to automatically import data directly from a paper receipt
  • automated calculation of items like mileage, HST rebates, and currency conversion
  • faster processing and the ability to see exactly where a claim sits in the process

A new, automated travel and expense system, to be launched in early 2015, will make the claims process easier, faster and more transparent for faculty and staff. It will also allow for the partial return to per diems for non-Ontario government funded research travel.

“The move to an automated system will make the travel and expense claims process easier and faster for faculty and staff,” says Caroline Davis, Vice-Principal (Finance and Administration). “The current paper-based system can be cumbersome and time-consuming, and automating the process will reduce the burden of managing those claims across the university.”

Queen’s recently completed a request for proposals (RFP) process for a travel and expense system vendor. The RFP’s evaluation committee unanimously selected Concur, a leading provider with more than 20,000 clients and 25 million users world-wide. A number of Canadian universities, including the universities of Saskatchewan, Manitoba and British Columbia, as well as Memorial University, already use Concur’s system, and others have recently signed on.

Carlos Escobedo, Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering, was a member of the RFP evaluation committee and says that he was impressed with the capabilities and ease of use of Concur’s system. “Concur offers an excellent service and has a lot of experience in the higher education sector,” says Dr. Escobedo. “The system will streamline the entire expense claim process and ultimately save time.”

The implementation of the new system will happen over a number of months. Faculty and staff across the university should be able to start using it for travel and expense claims in early 2015. The project is partially funded by an Ontario Productivity and Innovation Fund grant.

Read more about the travel and expense project.

2014-15 university budget approved

The Board of Trustees approved the university’s budget for 2014-15 at its May 2 meeting. The $483-million operating budget was developed over the past year as shared service and academic units presented their individual budget plans to the Provost’s Advisory Committee on the Budget (PACB).

“The university will once again have a balanced budget in 2014-15, but many financial challenges remain,” says Alan Harrison, Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic). “The pension solvency deficit is the most significant financial risk on the horizon in 2015-16, and our deferred maintenance backlog of $243 million and inflationary cost pressures make it challenging to operate in this time of static or declining government grants and constraints on tuition fees.”

The university’s pension solvency deficit, which was estimated at $292 million as of Aug. 31, 2013, could require the university to make large annual payments to pay down that deficit beginning in 2015-16 and the university will begin planning for that eventuality.

The budget was prepared under the activity-based budget model, which helps align the budget planning process with the university’s strategic priorities.

“Financial sustainability is one of the key drivers in the university’s strategic framework, and it is integral to advancing our mission as the research-intensive university with a transformative student learning experience,” adds Harrison. “We were able to maintain the budgets of shared services constant in 2014-15 relative to 2013-2014 and we are continuing to look for opportunities to contain costs across the institution.”

With the 2014-15 budget approved, the process of planning for the 2015-16 budget will begin shortly. The shared service units will be first to develop their budget plans for review by the PACB, which will make budget allocation recommendations to the Provost. Once the shared service budgets are set, the process will then turn to the faculties and schools in the fall.

View the full 2014-15 budget report

New software improves access to financial information

By Mark Kerr, Senior Communications Officer

A new tool aimed at improving financial reporting functionality is now available for use by researchers, departmental administrators, business officers and admin staff.

“The Fast Administrative Support Tool (FAST) is a welcome addition for the financial reporting community. Based on feedback we gathered from the training sessions and focus groups, users should immediately notice the ease and speed by which they can access the information they require,” says Caroline Davis, Vice-Principal (Finance and Administration).

The user-friendly software allows users to run four new financial reports:

• Project summary report for researchers and the non-research community
• A new statement of operations report
• A trust and endowment report
• A summary expendable balance report

“I am thoroughly enjoying these reports and I am really looking forward to using this reporting tool,” says Patrick Legresley, Associate Director, Finance, Queen's School of Business. “What a difference already.”

Michael Blennerhassett, an associate professor in the Department of Biomedical and Molecular Sciences, says the new tool addresses the frustration he has experienced managing multiple grants that contain several different types of grant accounts. The new financial reporting tool gives him fast access to each grant with the current balance immediately visible. Within each grant, he can identify the transactions and examine them further for date and origin. He can easily find totals for different types of costs over time and select different time periods.

“This is a tremendous improvement. It is really valuable for understanding how money is being spent, and allows informed decision-making on future costs of research,” says Dr. Blennerhassett.

Financial Services plans to introduce additional reports in the future and will work with stakeholders to prioritize development. Users who would like to submit a request for a new report can use the feedback form provided in FAST.

Users can access FAST by logging into MyQueensU/SOLUS directly from www.queensu.ca. Authorized users of the tool will find a section called Financial Reporting Information that contains a link to FAST.

Training videos are available on the Financial Services website. A dedicated help desk is available by calling 613-533-6000 ext. 78426, emailing, submitting an issue through a webform.

More information about the new tool is available on the Financial Services website.
 

Framework will guide enrolment planning

By Craig Leroux, Senior Communications Officer

A framework to guide enrolment planning at Queen’s over the next 10 years was approved by Senate at its March 25 meeting. The Long-term Strategic Enrolment Management Framework lays out a variety of factors for consideration within the enrolment management process . The framework also details principles, goals and actions aimed at aligning enrolment management with the university’s strategic priorities.

“This framework is an important planning tool that will help Queen’s manage enrolment strategically to the best advantage of its distinctive academic mission,” says Daniel Woolf, Principal and Vice-Chancellor. “It is closely aligned with the Strategic Framework and will promote two of our key strategic drivers, an enhanced student experience and improved financial sustainability.”

The framework was developed by the Strategic Enrolment Management Group (SEMG) and informed by community engagement and consultation. It considers external factors such as government funding and the demand for post-secondary education, as well as internal factors such as institutional capacity and student retention.

Alan Harrison, Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic) and Chair of the SEMG, says the framework will be used by the SEMG, which includes all Deans, to develop annual enrolment targets.

“The framework itself does not suggest specific numbers because a 10-year timeframe involves too much uncertainty,” says Harrison. “Rather, the SEMG will continue to recommend rolling three-year enrolment targets to Senate through SCAD each year, informed by the Long-term Enrolment Management Framework.”

The SEMG’s short-term enrolment projections for 2014-15 and 2015-16 will be submitted to SCAD at its April meeting and will then proceed to Senate, for its consideration.

View the Long-term Strategic Enrolment Management Framework

More on enrolment planning at Queen’s

New tool offers reseachers enhanced features for managing awards

By Mark Kerr, Senior Communications Officer

Members of the research community now have a new tool to apply for and manage awards.

“This latest phase of the Tools for Research at Queen’s (TRAQ) project is intended to provide users with enhanced features that will free up time they previously spent on research administrative tasks,” says Cynthia Fekken, Associate Vice-Principal (Research).

The TRAQ Awards (Grants and Contracts) module replaces the Data Summary and Signature System (DSS). Researchers can access TRAQ Awards by logging into MyQueensu/SOLUS using their NetID and password where they will see a section entitled ‘TRAQ Researcher Portal’ in the bottom right-hand corner. The Awards (Grants and Contracts) module is accessible by clicking on the TRAQ Researcher Portal.

“As a faculty member dealing with multiple funding sources, I am optimistic that this new system will be easier to access, will have greater functionality, and will be beneficial to the entire Queen’s community,” says John Smol, a professor in the Department of Biology and a member of the TRAQ advisory committee.

The new tool improves communication between University Research Services, Research Accounting, the principal investigator and project team members by allowing all parties to connect within the system. Furthermore, researchers will now have the ability to:

• Attach multiple documents to an award file
• Give project team members access to edit the application file before it is submitted for approval
• List multiple sponsors for a single award submission
• Link certifications directly to the awards file
• See both workflow approval and project logs in pre- and post-award periods

Research community members can consult role-based manuals and YouTube videos if they missed in-person training or need a refresher on how to use the tool. A dedicated help desk is available by phone 613-533-6000 ext. 78426, email, or in person by visiting the office at University Research Services on the second floor of Fleming Hall, Jemmett Wing.
 

Trainers break down barriers to new admin tools

By Mark Kerr, Senior Communications Officer

Terena Grice has a specific goal in mind when she provides financial services training.

“I want to put people at ease and get them comfortable,” says Ms. Grice, Financial Support and Training Coordinator in the Office of the Controller. “I like to say my job is to empower others to perform their role effectively and efficiently.”

[Ingrid Gagnon and Terena Grice]Ingrid Gagnon (left) and Terena Grice have developed resources and delivered in-person training for the new administrative tools.

After 24 years in her support and training role, Ms. Grice has helped ease the transition to many new systems and processes. She will play an important role once the new financial reporting tool, known as the Fast Administrative Support Tool (FAST), goes live on March 27.

“I am getting excited for FAST to launch, when I will get to connect with some of the administrators,” she says. “I suspect there will be a lot of interactions through phone calls so I will try to connect people with where they need to go. We expect some nervousness, but we want to address that quickly.”

Leading up to the launch of FAST, Ingrid Gagnon, the training co-ordinator for the Tools for Research at Queen’s (TRAQ) project, has offered in-person training and developed role-based manuals and online video tutorials. She believes training is vital for a successful transition.

“Sometimes people say they don’t have time for training, but in some cases they are going to waste more time trying to figure things out on their own which will generate a lot of frustrations,” she says.

Ms. Gagnon became the training co-ordinator on the TRAQ project in November 2012. She has provided training not only for FAST but the other aspects of the project, mostly recently the Awards (Grants and Contracts) module, which launches on March 26.

Ms. Grice said Financial Services works hard to develop and deliver training and process documents that address users’ needs.

“The training developed by the TRAQ team aligns really well with our long-term training strategy, which includes a certificate program and more online training,” she says.

Ms. Grice and Ms. Gagnon worked closely with the TRAQ training working group, which consists of Queen’s staff members who have a training element to their positions. The group meets once a month to collaborate and share best practices.

“All of these people need to be trained but they are increasingly busy and find it difficult to attend in-person training sessions. So a big part of my role has been to develop clear and concise training manuals and short video tutorials,” says Ms. Gagnon. “I want to make sure people can use the tools properly so they have more time to do the work that matters to them the most.”

Learn more about FAST training on the Financial Services website.
 

Board of Trustees in brief

Highlights from the March 7-8, 2014 meeting of the Board of Trustees

Welcome from the chair

Chair Barb Palk welcomed trustees and asked for a moment of silence in memory of John Matheson, Arts’40, LLD’84. She thanked Rector Nick Francis and the outgoing executives of the Alma Mater Society (AMS) and the Society of Graduate and Professional Students (SGPS) for their service to Queen’s, and congratulated Rector-elect Mike Young and AMS President-elect Allison Williams together with her executive.

The Board approved naming dedications.

Principal’s strategic update

Principal Woolf updated trustees on several initiatives, including:

  • Classes are now underway in the newly renovated active learning classrooms in Ellis Hall.
  • Under a recent restructuring, University Communications, Marketing, and Public and Government Relations will all report to Chief Communications Officer Michael Fraser.
  • The latest federal budget contains good news for universities, including the new $1.5-billion Canada First Research Excellence Fund, an additional $37 million annually for Canada’s research granting councils, and $9 million each year to support the indirect costs of research. As a research-intensive university, this news is important for Queen’s.
  • The principal presented the Strategic Framework document to the Board. The framework will advance the university’s vision as the “quintessential balanced academy” and guide decision making over the next five years.
  • Al Orth, Associate Vice-Principal of Human Resources, and his team are developing a Talent Management Framework to foster leadership and cultivate talent at Queen’s. The principal announced that Mary Elms has been seconded from her position as organizational development consultant in Human Resources to serve as manager of organizational development for a two-year term. Ms. Elms will take on the responsibility for completing and implementing the talent management framework and will report directly to the principal.

Provost's operational report

In addition to his written report, Provost Harrison noted that the university withdrew its application for a noise by-law exemption pending further consultation on the matter.

Campaign progress report

Judith Brown, Associate Vice-Principal (Advancement) and Executive Director of Alumni Relations, reported that Queen’s has raised $55.8 million so far this fiscal year, on an overall annual goal of $60 million. A total of $398.3 million has been raised out of the overall Initiative Campaign goal of $500 million.

Strategic research update

Steven Liss, Vice-Principal (Research) reported that:

Campus Master Plan

The Campus Master Plan (CMP) was approved by the Board following a presentation by Laeeque Daneshmend, Deputy Provost, with Joe Berridge and Warren Price from Urban Strategies Inc., Queen’s lead planning consultant. The CMP provides a framework to guide the evolution of the campus over the next 10 to 15 years and is the result of nearly a year and a half of study and consultation. More information.


Report from Senate

Senator Iain Reeve updated trustees on Senate activities, including the approval of a new Graduate Diploma in Risk Policy and Regulation and a concurrent Bachelor of Music/Music and Digital Media program with St. Lawrence College, and the presentation of the Teaching and Learning Action Plan.

Faculty report

Brenda Brouwer, Vice-Provost and Dean of the School of Graduate Studies (SGS), provided an overview of the school and its activities. She noted that the SGS provides a service function to faculties and acts as the administrative office for all graduate activities, including postdoctoral fellows. Twenty per cent of Queen’s students are graduate students and applications have risen 26 per cent since 2008. Queen’s has the highest nine-year doctoral completion rate in the U15, and the third-highest five-year master’s completion rate. Queen’s ranks third among its U15 peers in recipient rate of tri-council graduate scholarships.

Queen’s University Alumni Association (QUAA) report

QUAA President Jess Joss provided an update on the association’s activities and welcomed incoming QUAA president George Jackson, as well as incoming Queen’s Student Alumni Association president Taylor Jennings. She noted that the alumni volunteer summit and awards gala will happen April 4 and 5. She also noted that Queen’s email addresses are now available to all alumni.

Student reports

Rector Nick Francis expressed his congratulations to Rector-elect Mike Young and his gratitude to fellow students for his Queen’s experience. He highlighted that the many important roles students play in the life of the university, including orientation week and non-academic discipline, are central to the Queen’s experience, but expressed concern about the university’s increasing focus on risk and liability.

AMS President Eril Berkok congratulated President-elect Allison Williams, who is the current academic affairs commissioner. Mr. Berkok praised the unique learning environment at Queen’s and the significant role that students play in the governance and campus culture at the university; however, he also expressed concern about the university’s focus on risk management.

SGPS President Iain Reeve encouraged the board to look at the possibility of financial incentives for graduate students during the final stages of their degrees to encourage shorter completion times. He also reflected on his experience at Queen’s and said it is a place where students can make a real impact on the institution. He observed that there is more work to be done in engaging graduate students and encouraging them to get involved.

Capital Assets and Finance committee

The Board approved the domestic, international and Bader International Study Centre tuition fees for 2014-15.

Provost Alan Harrison provided the Board with an overview of the preliminary 2014-15 budget.

The Board approved a motion for an increase of $700,000 to the construction budget of the Queen’s University Micro-Nano Facility at Innovation Park.

Investment committee

The Board approved revisions to the spending policy for the Pooled Endowment Fund as well as changes to the Statement of Investment Policies and Procedures.

The Board recessed and resumed the meeting at 9 am on Saturday, March 8.

Risk Management

Caroline Davis, Vice-Principal (Finance and Administration), presented a risk management dashboard that acts as the capstone to the enterprise risk management process developed over the past two years. Trustee Karyn Brooks commended Vice-Principal Davis and her team for their work in integrating risk mitigation into the management of the university.

Technology-enhanced learning

Provost Harrison noted that the student learning experience is central to the Strategic Framework and many of the university’s planning documents, including the Teaching and Learning Action Plan that was recently released by the Provost’s Task Force on the Student Learning Experience. He highlighted that technology will have an increasing role in enhanced learning.

Jill Scott, Vice-Provost (Teaching and Learning) and co-chair of the task force, provided a more detailed overview of how the action plan calls for the purposeful use of technology to enhance the student learning experience. She noted that student engagement is a goal, whether learning occurs face to face on in an online or blended model.

Strategic Framework

Provost Alan Harrison gave a presentation on the employment and income outcomes for Queen’s graduates. Queen’s alumni are above the Ontario university average for both incomes and employment rates six months after graduation.

Long-term Strategic Enrolment Management Framework

Provost Alan Harrison provided an update on the Long-term Strategic Enrolment Management Framework, noting that it will be brought to Senate for approval. The framework does not provide prescriptive enrolment targets for the long-term; rather, it ensures the necessary considerations are taken into account as short-term targets are developed each year.

New policy proposed for internal loans

By Craig Leroux, Senior Communications Officer

A proposed university policy on internal loans has been posted to the website of the University Secretariat for review and comment by the Queen’s community. The proposed policy would create a consistent process for the application, approval and administration of loans that the university provides to academic and shared service units to finance capital projects.

“Internal loans are a source of financing for capital projects and are part of the university’s overall debt management strategy,” says Caroline Davis, Vice-Principal (Finance). “The proposed policy creates a clear and transparent process for internal loans across the university.”

The internal loans policy applies to units within the university that wish to undertake capital projects in excess of $1 million that require financing. Internal loans will have terms of five to 40 years and interest rates will be based on the university’s indicative cost of financing.

“The university has a limited capacity to grant internal loans, and so they will only be approved for strategic priorities where there is a clear benefit to the university,” adds Vice-Principal Davis.

Approval of internal loans is the responsibility of the Capital Assets and Finance Committee and the Board of Trustees.

The policy on internal loans and its associated procedure are now posted for review. Comment is invited from the Queen’s community by March 31 and may be sent by email.

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