Responding To Our Budget Crisis

September 30, 2009

UCLA Office of the Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost

Dear Colleagues:

As a result of the dramatic fall in state funding for the University of California, we must restructure UCLA’s academic programs to align them with the state’s current budget.  This will be one step in a series of measures required to close the funding gap facing us.  While the task presents a stark challenge, it also provides an opportunity to renew the vitality, relevance and energy of our teaching programs.

By now, you are well aware that in 2009-10 the University of California will suffer a budget cut of at least $637 million, or about 20% of the general funds the university receives from the state.  UCLA’s share of this reduction will amount to more than $117 million.  In addition, we must cover $14 million cuts carried forward from 2008-09, for a total shortfall of $131 million.

To close this daunting gap, the UC system has already taken some actions, including a student fee increase, and we expect that the Regents will authorize general salary reduction through pay cuts and/or furloughs.  At UCLA, we previously planned for and are now implementing the 5% cuts levied on all operating units.  While we have some reserves to temporarily assist with the shortfall, we must implement at least another $40 million in budget cuts to balance our books.  We will do so through targeted cuts, increased revenues and administrative savings.

In this memo, I outline a series of tasks that departments, deans, and university administration, working with the Academic Senate, must now undertake to reduce the costs of UCLA’s academic enterprise.

One of the actions we must take is to slow faculty hiring dramatically and increase the number of unfilled ladder positions.  I must authorize in advance all faculty searches for 2009-10, including those that you wish to continue from the previous year.  I will approve only 25 searches campuswide, and this number may drop further in 2010-11.  Thus, department chairs and deans must prioritize desired searches.  I have asked the deans to send me short memos by July 17, 2009, describing their needs and providing academic justification for all searches.  After reviewing the requests, I will determine which searches may proceed.

The deans’ analyses of potential cuts have demonstrated that 5 percent reductions will impair academic programs as they are currently structured.  Along with a near-freeze in faculty hiring, the cuts will severely challenge our ability to maintain curricula across the campus.

To ameliorate those effects and to give programs time to restructure undergraduate majors and course offerings, the chancellor will provide the College and some professional schools with bridge funding for 2009-10.  These funds should enable departments and programs to maintain their undergraduate offerings at the same levels as in 2008-09.  This effort is aimed largely at undergraduate instruction, but we must also examine graduate and professional program curricula.

We cannot sustain this level of bridge funding in future years, however, so departments, programs and schools must begin immediately to find ways to restructure their offerings in line with new budget realities.  This comprehensive task will necessarily involve all levels of faculty and administration and every aspect of academic management.

While cost reduction is our immediate challenge, the current situation also provides an opportunity to examine our majors and courses to ensure that they meet our academic goals and the aspirations of students.  The real challenge is to guarantee that our curriculum provides students the education they will need in a diverse and global society.  Remember that the vast majority of our students will not work within the fields we teach, but will occupy positions of leadership throughout our community and the world.  We must direct our teaching resources to the areas in which they are most critical—the high-priority courses essential for students to progress toward their degrees.

We all must remain mindful of our institutional priorities of academic excellence, diversity and community engagement.  As we focus on reduction in the short term, we must not veer from our broader goals and aspirations.  We must maintain our high academic quality, our ambition for greater excellence, and our commitment to the highest academic values.  Budget cutting must not sacrifice quality; so, as we engage in these difficult tasks, we must remain focused on what makes UCLA one of the world’s great universities.

My Charge to Departments

I am asking every department to conduct a self-analysis that will stimulate change related to the following issues.  Departments without a curriculum committee may choose to convene one for this purpose.  Remember that changes to curricula and degree programs require approval by the unit’s Faculty Executive Committee and, in most cases, by the Graduate Council or Undergraduate Council of the Academic Senate.

  • Limit and re-examine the number of units required for majors.  Many majors have grown through the gradual addition of courses over time, rather than through serious consideration of what should be required of students.  As a result, many programs demand too many units of their majors, many more courses than can be practically offered in the present environment.  The College’s “Challenge 45” (reducing upper-division requirements for the major to 45 units) is one step toward streamlining, and many majors can move even farther down that path as they examine their lower division and General Education requirements.
  • Plan enrollment carefully to ensure that (a) majors can take needed courses in a timely way, (b) other students can enroll in courses required for their majors, and (c) graduate admissions aligns with the availability of teaching assistantships and other forms of support.
  • Identify the core courses in majors and prioritize course offerings.  Drop or consolidate low-enrollment courses that are not core to the program.  It is equally important to identify courses that are essential to the completion of other majors and to ensure that they are offered alongside courses for the department’s major.
  • Assign ladder faculty to teach core courses.  The percentage of ladder faculty teaching in high-priority courses at the lower- and upper-division levels must increase.  Departments and programs must determine whether their workload policies are appropriate to the current fiscal environment or need to be modified.
  • Reduce the number of courses offered (but maintain the number of seats available to students, by level).
  • Reduce course releases for ladder faculty.
  • Consider how summer sessions can assist the department’s majors in progressing toward their degrees.
  • Work with department chairs to review and, if needed, modify or add course materials fees.
  • Explore opportunities for partnering with University Extension to generate revenue and expand the department’s reach.

These tasks should be completed or well under way by January 1, 2010.  Each department must submit a report to the dean by December 15, 2009, describing the steps it has taken in the above areas, what remains to be done, and how it will complete the effort over the remainder of the 2009-2010 academic year.  Over the longer term, further changes may be needed, including more comprehensive curricular reform, increased departmental contributions to interdisciplinary studies, and new forms of graduate student support.

My Charge to Deans

In addition to the plans you have already developed to achieve the 5% budget cuts for your schools or divisions, I ask you to take the following steps.  Remember that academic restructuring and changes to degree programs require FEC and/or Academic Senate approval.

  • Modify department workload policies as needed to ensure that ladder faculty teach courses that are core to majors and academic programs.  In so doing, convey the expectation that departments should contribute to interdisciplinary teaching and learning.
  • Explore which departments or programs can be downsized, consolidated or disestablished.
  • Work with departments to reduce the units required for majors and minors.
  • Reduce course releases for ladder faculty to cut costs and ensure that the department can offer the courses students need in order to graduate on time.
  • Consolidate or reduce administrative functions, including IT and deans’ central offices.
  • Begin 2010-11 course planning, recognizing that bridge funds may be substantially reduced or unavailable.
  • Consider developing broad-based majors to provide a more efficient distribution of students.
  • Consider developing self-supporting degree programs.
  • Work with department chairs to review and, if needed, modify or add course material fees.
  • Reduce the number of courses offered, by combining and cross-listing those currently housed in different departments and schools.

These tasks will continue throughout the 2009-10 academic year.  By January 22, 2010, deans must report to me on departments’ progress in revising their programs, as well as the measures deans have taken to realign their academic resources.  Over the longer term, deans may have to further consolidate programs and departments, implement self-supporting programs and develop programs that attract more non-resident students.

Responsibilities of Central Administration

My office, and those of the other academic vice chancellors, are charged with the following tasks:

  • Restrict faculty searches and focus them in the most essential areas.
  • Work with the Academic Senate to address campuswide issues including:
    • State funding for organized research units and other “small c” centers
    • The costs of instruction in writing, languages, mathematics and GE
    • The costs of interdepartmental programs
    • The efficacy and costs of UCLA’s academic personnel system
    • Identification and elimination of low-performing, redundant, ancillary or problematic programs (administrative or academic)
  • Reduce duplicative programs and services.
  • Reduce overall enrollment of state-supported undergraduates; modestly increase non-resident undergraduate enrollment.
  • Implement alternatives to the expensive “course buy-out system” for interdisciplinary teaching.
  • Increase the IEI fee and apply it to all undergraduate courses.
  • Implement plans to increase revenues.
  • Implement administrative cost-saving measures and reduce the size of administration.
  • Vigorously support fundraising.
  • Provide information and analysis to support curriculum and course planning.

I will report back to the deans and Academic Senate before the end of the winter quarter to review what we have accomplished and to confer about how we must proceed during the next year.  By then, we should know more about the budget outlook for 2010-2011 and be able to determine whether we have taken sufficient measures.  If the budget crisis shows signs of continuing, we might have to take additional steps, such as consolidating schools or divisions; investing in distance-learning technology; and further reducing costs of academic support units.

For More Information

Earlier in 2009, three budget task forces developed strategic directions for cutting costs of the academic program, increasing revenues, and reducing administrative costs.  You may read their reports, as well as a draft of UCLA’s academic plan, at  Please read these materials and comment.  We will begin to implement the toolbox recommendations this summer to reduce costs and increase non-state revenues.  Your help will be essential to the success of this effort, which includes academic realignment.

UCLA’s budget website has up-to-date information on the state, UC and UCLA budget situation.  I encourage you to check it often at

Finally, I will make every effort to keep you informed.  Chancellor Block and I will visit schools and departments to talk directly with faculty.  We also will continue to meet regularly with the Academic Senate leadership.


Scott L. Waugh
Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost