University debts

As governments disinvest in higher education, and in the absence of student contributions, major financial issues will begin to arise. A few months ago the Principal of Glasgow University, Professor Anton Muscatelli, declared that the university would run out of cash by 2013. And now the latest institution to sound a warning is Trinity College Dublin, with the Provost, Dr John Hegarty, warning that by 2015 TCD would have an accumulated deficit of between €80 and €100 million.

It is understandable that concerns should be expressed about the levels of graduate debt that may arise with tuition fees, but we also need to be aware of the growth of institutional debt. If TCD’s Provost is right, the level of debt that the College may be facing is unsustainable. Universities, even in good times, tend to run knife-edge budgets, and the prospect of having to recover such sums from general revenues would be frightening. It is vital that we do not allow higher education to slide into a situation in which its key institutions cease to be financially viable.

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6 Comments on “University debts”

  1. jfryar Says:

    I’ve often wondered where are all the endowments to Irish universities? Certainly I’m on the DCU alumni mailing lists, as I’m sure graduates from other institutions are, but I suspect the amount of cash generated in Ireland by philanthropic donations and alumni associations is a tiny fraction of, say, US institutions.

    During the ‘boom years’ we were living it up … and lots of people made lots of money. Is there, perhaps, a need for us to examine why such donations are less common here? Is it cultural? Do Irish graduates have less ‘loyality’ to their home institution? Is there something that could be modified in the tax system to encourage such donations?

    Not, of course, that donations would solve the problem. But it’s a comment!


    • As you suggest yourself, philanthropy is not the solution to a deficit in current expenditure: no private donor will ever provide funds to close that gap. Philanthropy is about capital investment.

      Having said that, there is indeed a need to develop philanthropy in Irish higher education. As you suggest, charitable giving is part of a culture, and in the US there is a tradition of ‘giving something back’ that we haven’t yet developed in this part if the world to the same extent. That said, there has been some success, with major buildings across all Irish universities funded by philanthropy. The major donor, as many will know, has been Chuck Feeney of Atlantic Philanthropies, who has made major donations to all Irish universities.

      Universities have also increasingly built up annual giving by alumni (DCU was the first to develop this seriously), but we have a long way to go before we reach American levels of giving.

  2. Fred Says:

    These two are certainly what people say succesful and respectful institutions, ancient, Russell Group (Glasgow) etc. I wonder where are the other relatively newer institutions in financial terms…
    Or is all this bold statements for the governments (if they hear)?

  3. Fred Says:

    Happy new year to everybody!

  4. Al Says:

    I wonder about the optics of our famous tax exiles been tapped for a building or two….
    If philanthropy is to start there needs to be a serious clear out of people and/or practices.
    time will be needed to seperate from some of the nonsense.

  5. Edu Says:

    Ya.. i too some times think how the students are paying soo much of education fees and taking loans for it and going into debt before they began to earn or grow up in thier career field.. The government should do some thing to avoid huge fees and should take a neccessary action to avoid students to fall in debt before they start their career.


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