Faculty positions within Alberta’s fast-growing post-secondary institutions could be on the chopping block as the province works to overcome a $4-billion budget gap, says the deputy premier and advanced education minister.

“Ask yourself the question why I’m here and why the universities are there?” Thomas Lukaszuk said. “We’re there to serve the students — we’re not here to employ me and we’re not here to employ professors.”

The province pledged two-per-cent increases in grant funding to institutions until 2014, but Lukaszuk said that is unlikely to materialize.

“Let’s be frank, we know that this will not be a budget increase, this will be a budget decrease and that is never easy,” he said.

Lukaszuk said he also does not intend to have universities make up shortfalls with tuition increases.

Colton Yamagishi, president of the University of Albert Student Union said he’s pleased to hear the minister has a student focus.

“If they do plan to keep the tuition cap we think this is an extremely important for our students,” he said.

Donna Wilson, president of the Association of Academic Staff at the University of Alberta, was disturbed the province is contemplating cuts.

“This would be a third year in a row that all of those organizations have had to pinch pennies,” she said.

Lukaszuk was recently put in his post and will be in Vietnam on budget day, as part of a charity program. Wilson questioned if he really understand the impacts.

“I wonder if has been properly informed in his two weeks when he has been busy dismantling playsets and preparing to leave the country.”

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