University funding – again…
The resourcing and funding problems faced by the Irish university sector are continuing to get media attention – with a front page article by Sean Flynn in yesterday’s Irish Times, and various items in newspapers and on radio programmes. It is sometimes hard to work out whether the issues we are experiencing are being effectively communicated to a wider public, but at least the financial position of universities is now getting significant media attention.
Currently, we are being told by the government that we should expect a cut of 3 per cent to the grant we receive from the State for 2009. It needs to be said that a cut of 3 per cent is not a cut of 3 per cent, as the rate of inflation experienced by universities needs to be factored in. Secondly, this cut will hit the sector after several years of successive reductions in funding in real terms, which have already thrown several institutions into serious financial crisis (though not, as yet, DCU).
What we are therefore facing is a pattern of government decision-making that seems to suggest that teaching (as distinct from research, which has been more generously funded) in universities is not a priority. There may be a view in some circles that there is still a certain amount of poor management of resources and some waste in the sector, but a number of external investigations in recent years don’t bear that out; and in any case, even if it were true, universities don’t have the basic management tools under the law to address under-performance, if it were identified. In fact, it is almost certainly the case that under-performance is less of an issue in universities than almost anywhere else in the public sector.
In the end, what this tells us again and again is that we will not be able to address the financial problems in the sector until the issue of how we structure the funding is properly tackled – including, inevitably, the reintroduction of tuition fees and a proper framework of grants and scholarships for those who cannot afford the fees.Explore posts in the same categories: higher education, university comment below, or link to this permanent URL from your own site.