The University of Alberta is facing program cuts and staff layoffs in order to cut an additional seven per cent from academic spending, university president Indira Samarasekera announced on Friday.

Samerasekera said in a letter to staff, faculty and students that the cuts are in response to "direction the board has now received from the ministry."

The decision to fast-track the cuts was made by deans and senior leaders following two days of meetings.

The university will also have to reduce student admissions.

"I want to be clear: these are major cuts and every member of our community will feel the impact," she wrote.

The budget cuts also include an 8 per cent cut to administration.  The university will reduce spending by two per cent in the 2015-2016 and 2016-2017.


Students' Union president Petros Kusmu says the plan to fast-track the cuts is going to jeopardize the university and Albertans. (CBC)

The reductions are in response to this year's provincial budget where operational grants for colleges and universities were cut by $147 million, a drop of 6.9 per cent.

Students' Union president Petros Kusmu says the cuts will hurt.

"Despite what we were told, these budget cuts are going to fall on the backs of students," he said.

"And the decision to fast-track this deficit reduction plan is going to be unbelievably dangerous, not only to the academy, but to Albertans as a whole, for students who want to apply to this institution and for research."

Job cuts will be determined after the deadline for the voluntary severance program passes in mid-September.

The university has already suspended 20 arts programs and announced it will accept 300 fewer science students this year.


Advanced Education Minister Thomas Lukaszuk says the U of A is making the budget cuts that all other post-secondary institutions made last spring. (CBC)

It isn't yet known what additional programs will be affected.

Earlier this week, Advanced Education Minister Thomas Lukaszuk approved the university‚Äôs plan to run a $45 million deficit this year.

However, Lukaszuk is getting independant consultants to balance the U of A budget by 2015. 

While he knows the cuts are difficult, Lukaszuk said on Friday that the University of Alberta is making the budget cuts that all other post-secondary institutions in Alberta dealt with last spring. 

"It wasn't easy on them either, " Lukaszuk said. "But we do have to take solace because those are facts, those are numbers, that we are still the second-highest funded university system, post-secondary system, in Canada."

In her letter, Samarasekera said that the university decided to accelerate the original plan and take action now.