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New U of A president braced for 'challenging financial times' in his home province


The University of Alberta has named Bill Flanagan as its new president and vice-chancellor.

Flanagan will assume his new duties on July 1, taking over from outgoing president David Turpin, who has decided not to seek a second five-year term.

Flanagan joins the university at a time of fiscal restraint and uncertainty.

The Alberta government is reducing funding to the province’s 26 post-secondary institutions by 20 per cent in the next three years.

The university announced last week that it already eliminated 400 positions and warned that another 600 positions could be slashed in the coming year in face of government funding reductions. Turpin said $110 million in government funding has been cut from campus.

In a video message posted to the university’s website on Thursday, Flanagan acknowledged the financial challenges but said he is thrilled at the opportunity.

“I know these are challenging financial times for the province and the country and of course the university,” Flanagan said. 

“These financial challenges are very much on the mind of all members in the university community but notwithstanding these challenges, I remain convinced that the University of Alberta has a very important part to play.” 

Born in Edmonton, Flanagan grew up in Stony Plain and Lacombe. He joins the University of Alberta from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., where he was dean of law from 2005 until 2019.

“I look forward to getting to campus as soon as I can and engaging with all members of the university community,” Flanagan said in the video announcement,

“This is going to be a real homecoming for me.” 

‘Critical juncture’

Flanagan was chosen after an extensive international search, Kate Chisholm, chair of the university’s board of governors, said in a statement.

The university is at a “critical juncture” and Flanagan will be the kind of leader needed in the years ahead, Chisholm said. 

“We are being called to respond to dramatic changes, not only in immediate reaction to COVID-19, but also to longer-term shifts — shifts in the post-secondary landscape in Alberta, to provincial and national economies undergoing rapid change and diversification, and to the essential role that comprehensive research-intensive universities must continue to play in the knowledge-economies of the future. 

“The decisions and solutions we reach today will set the trajectory of this university for years and decades to come.”

Flanagan holds a BA in English and Philosophy from Carleton University, a JD from the University of Toronto, a DEA in International Economic Law from Université Paris I-Sorbonne, and a master of laws degree from Columbia University.

He is currently chair of the Canadian Foundation for AIDS Research’s National Working Group. In recognition of his community service, he was named to the honour roll of the Ontario AIDS Network in 2011.



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