format_list_bulleted Topic Overview

Stanford's Budget Process

The University Budget Office (UBO) manages the annual budget process, which results in the annual Budget Plan presented to the Board of Trustees for approval, as well as the Booked Budget, which sets the detailed annual budgets for each department. This overview outlines key players and the general timeline of activities vital to developing Stanford’s budget.

University Budget Office

The UBO is responsible for all processes, policies, and procedures related to the University Consolidated Budget. The UBO supports approximately 300 budget officers and financial analysts across 30 budget units. This support includes budget planning and forecasting, managing the annual budget process, and managing and supporting the Tidemark budgeting tool.

In addition, the UBO manages the university organization code hierarchy as well as the iBudgets module of Oracle Financials and the Transfer Administration System. The basic function of the organization code hierarchy is to define parent-child organizational relationships and to group information such as employee data and financial data, which affect many aspects of university reporting. The UBO reports to the vice provost for budget and auxiliaries management.

Budget Group

The Budget Group serves as an advisory committee to the provost and works to set and/or change budget priorities as appropriate for the financial health of the university. The Budget Group includes the provost, members from the UBO, senior-level faculty, and executive staff from various university organizations.

Budget Units

Each budget unit is responsible for planning, managing, and reconciling its local budget. Nearly all of the decision-making for managing Stanford funds is made at the local level, which is consistent with the decentralized and entrepreneurial spirit of the university. Budget units vary from small schools and organizations with few departments to large schools and organizations with many departments. The size of operational budgets, roles and responsibilities for managing the budget, and budgetary procedures may vary by budget unit. Refer to the list of current Budget Unit Financial Officers.

The university’s Consolidated Budget for Operations is a compilation of all annual operating and restricted budgets that support teaching, scholarships, and research. This comprises the operational activities of 30 budget units, including university administration, auxiliary entities, and SLAC. Academic units account for the majority of operational activities in support of the university mission. The capital budget and the budget for hospital and clinical services are excluded from the Consolidated Budget.

Budget unit budgets are a subset of the Consolidated Budget and include general and restricted funds (i.e., designated, expendable, and endowment), supporting ongoing unit operations and auxiliaries.

Stanford’s annual budget cycle commences in November and concludes in October of the following year. This is offset from Stanford’s fiscal year, which begins in September and ends in August. The budgeting process and related activities include reviewing actuals from the recently closed (i.e., prior) fiscal year, making projections for the current fiscal year and forecasting/planning for the next fiscal year. Each phase of the budget cycle is described in detail below. For specific deadlines, refer to the Budgeting Calendar.

November to February

The goal of the Budget Proposal phase is to develop a high-level proposal for the next fiscal year cycle.

The UBO commences the annual budget cycle by providing budget units with the following:

  • Summary of the university’s financial outlook and budgetary priorities
  •  Preliminary allocation numbers
  • Outline of budget process for the next fiscal year

Budget unit representatives prepare financial reports indicating:

  • High-level next year outlook
  • Fund balances for prior years
  • Previous year recap (overview of budget results and discussion on planned use of reserve balances)
  • Requests for incremental general funds support

Budget unit representatives meet with the UBO to review the previous year’s financial performance and to convey the impact of university priorities, the unit’s programmatic directions and initiatives, and internal funding strategies for the coming year.

Budget unit representatives submit their budget proposals and preliminary budget letter for the next fiscal year to the UBO.

March to April

The goal of the Budget Plan phase is to project current fiscal year-end performance based on what has happened so far and what is expected for the remainder of the year in order to prepare a high-level forecast for the next fiscal year.

The UBO also compiles and publishes the University Budget Plan, describing the upcoming fiscal year budget as approved by the Board of Trustees. The Budget Plan discusses the main budget considerations facing the university and includes the Consolidated Budget for University Operations, Capital Budget, and Three-Year Capital Plan.

Initially, the UBO announces the general funds allocation and planning parameters for the next fiscal year.

Budget unit representatives then submit their Budget Plan materials:

  • Year-end budget forecast and variances to budget
  • Budget forecast for the next fiscal year

Additionally, budget units will provide a programmatic, high-level budgetary and capital plan write-up for the Budget Book (if relevant).

To understand how the Tidemark budgeting tool supports activities during this phase, refer to instructions related to Budget Plan Phase.

April to August

The goal of the Booked Budget phase is to prepare detailed unit budgets to be managed throughout the upcoming fiscal year.

The UBO prepares the Tidemark budgeting tool for unit budgeting activities. Budget units enter their detailed budgets in Tidemark, including revenues, expenses, transfers, and fund balances.

To understand how the Tidemark budgeting tool supports activities during this phase, refer to instructions related to Booked Budget Phase.

September to October

The goal of the Year-End Variance Analysis phase is to report prior year variances.

During this phase, the UBO and budget units perform analysis of:

  • Prior-year fiscal year-end budget versus actual expenses
  • Year-over-Year (YOY) actuals changes

To understand how the Tidemark budgeting tool and financial reporting tools support activities during this phase, refer to instructions related to Year-End Variance Analysis Phase. 

Last Updated: Jul 7, 2023