Endowment losses hit Connaught Fund

A recent Governing Council meeting revealed that the prestigious Connaught Fund has been slashed by $10 million, largely in part to U of T’s poor investment showings, meaning less pay-outs for deserving researchers. According to Professor Carolyn Tuohy, Vice President (Policy Development) for the Governing Council’s Academic Policy and Programs board, the fund has dipped to $98 million from $108 million the previous year. In addition, Deputy Provost, Professor Vivek Goel, noted that a decision was made to provide more awards at a lower level rather than to provide fewer awards at the same level across the board for matching programs.

The Connaught Fund was established by the Governing Council in 1972 through the sale of assets and property of the Connaught Medical Research Laboratories to the Canada Development Corporation. The primary purpose of the fund is the promotion of research and the application of the professional expertise and resources of the university to matters of public interest in all fields. The funds are granted in support of outstanding research by individuals or groups of scholars at the university.

Professor Judith Chadwick, program director of the Connaught Fund, qualified these fluctuations: “The Connaught is a shareholder in the broader university endowment pool – a consolidated investment pool – and that pool, along with just about everyone else in the world over the past few years, has suffered losses. Last year we felt the first major effect of the severe market downturn that had happened a year or two ago.”

Despite these current trends, Chadwick is confident the fund will recover over time. “The university has a lot tied up in its endowment pool, and it is an important source of funding for many things, including the Connaught initiative.” U of T’s investment strategy is lead by Vice-President, Business Affairs and Chief Financial Officer Felix Chee, with the guidance of the Controller’s Office under Sheila Brown. Chadwick notes that U of T is playing on the safe side with pay-outs now. “In addition, being somewhat conservative in terms of pay-out, we’re trying to balance current needs with the recognition that there will be needs in the future.”

Being a realist, Chadwick also noted it wouldn’t be an immediate rebound. “I don’t think that there is the expectation of an immediate, major bounce-back in the market. In terms of the pay-out, we worked ourselves up to a $5 million a year pay-out in expendable funds for program allocation. That dropped last year to about $3.3 million.”

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