Irish universities: preparing for the worst

The Trinity College Dublin students newspaper The University Times has published a letter from the TCD Provost, Dr John Hegarty, to College staff alerting them to the very tricky funding environment that TCD – in common of course with the other Irish universities – now faces. The Provost refers to what he regards as the ‘best case budget for the sector’, and in TCD’s case this would result in a 10 per cent cut in the government’s annual grant allocation; the worst case scenario is a 20 per cent cut. This cut of course comes on top of very significant funding reductions over the past two years or so. The Provost’s expressed hope is that the 10 per cent cut will be applied, rather than the more dramatic reductions. But he also acknowledges that ‘the impact of the financial situation on the quality of teaching and the overall student experience is a cause of grave concern.’

Of course we don’t yet know what we are going to face in the context of the government’s four-year plan to be published shortly. We believe that the student registration charge will rise by a substantial amount, quite possibly above the level of the relevant non-tuition costs, and quite possibly ‘balanced’ by a reduction in the recurrent grant and/or fees paid by the government under the ‘free fees’ scheme. We believe that there will be a further planned reduction in higher education faculty and staff under the ’employment control framework’. On the other hand we expect that research funding will not be significantly affected.

The universities will need to undertake urgent discussions to see what kind of education model can be sustained under these conditions. It does not seem likely that the existing teaching and learning methods can still be continued successfully to a satisfactory quality standard, but nobody really knows what might replace them. As the financial parameters are unlikely to improve for several years, it is now vital to look at the effect of the changing financial conditions on learning and pedagogy, and to see how an adapted model can allow Irish universities to offer degree programmes to acceptable international standards.

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8 Comments on “Irish universities: preparing for the worst”

  1. Vincent Says:

    You are out of it now, so I’ll be a little more blunt.
    I’ve read you blog for a good while now. At first I totally believed that the free fees were a good thing but for a few glitched here and there. The ones I encountered at UCG -that was-, like the huge jump in rents and all other external costs. And where anything under the direct control of the SU or the Uni was going to cost you 20% extra. Basically that the student was seen as a sheep that led itself to be shorn, where once inside the fold could have anything done to him with complete impunity, in the financial sense and others.
    As I said that would have been my view before reading this blog of yours.
    Now I think that you have been captured. Captured by ease. You have moneys coming in from so many different sources, notionally, that you really cannot move for insulting one of them.
    But your greatest source, the Treasury and behind it the Citizen is the one source that you should go cold Turkey to get away from once and for all. And start to send in bills.
    It’s time you became as passive in the transaction with the Treasury as the Courts. Let them come to you.

  2. Victor Says:

    The IMF will enforce prudence in all areas including 3rd level education and this will force focus,discipline and prudence.

    For example, how could UCC hire a litigious self promoter like dylan evans to a position in their Med School?
    He had a trivial publication record and a degree unrelated to medical science–from now on greater due diligence in hiring will be required.

  3. copernicus Says:

    Ferdinand
    “As the financial parameters are unlikely to improve for several years, it is now vital to look at the effect of the changing financial conditions on learning and pedagogy,..”
    The landscape has changed for ever.

    @Vincent “You are out of it now, so I’ll be a little more blunt. I’ve read you blog for a good while now. At first I totally believed that the free fees were a good thing but for a few glitched here and there..”

    Ferdinand is moving in to a part of Britain where a majority are hallucinating about free fee universities even inthese times of cuts, and delude themselves even now thinking that uncle English will handover the moeny pot feeling continuously guilty. There has never been free fee, as even the weakest and humble taxpayers were hither to paying for the indulgence of a few.

  4. Vincent Says:

    The Scottish situation is different. And mostly for the reasons I’ve mentioned.
    Here we have a situation where the transfers to a section of the population is installed while there is this notion that things are different.
    You and Scotland have no illusions that the situation is any different. However, while we give this notional lip to the Citizen, the Subject is willing to claw it’s rights, and if that means via your eye, the Scot or the Mancunian has little problem with that.
    Or to put it another way, FvonP will meet many a kid of a crofter. The equal here would not have a hope in hell of getting in, in anything like the same numbers.
    And BTW it is not a question of payment. At least not to my mind. I hold that for the Universities to survive they have to get that payment from the student directly with something like the Ivy league method. At the moment any moneys the get has ten or twenty homes once it arrives to the bank of that College, but only one within the walls.

  5. Undisciplined Says:

    I will not name my discipline, but can honestly say that the evidence that I have says that higher education and university research have benefited during previous economic downturns. Many of my “classic” references were born in the horrors of wars, even recent ones. (Not that I wish war on anyone as a research motivator).

    I suspect that most disciplinary perspectives would find the same rear-view evidence. Pick out your top 10 references, your favourite texts or your heroes and have a look at the economic circumstances in which they were produced.

    Economic good times are not necessarily healthy, and all the electronic whiteboards, Wikified interactive teaching and globally-connected data sharing have hidden some very slovenly practices of the last decade.

    Recession is a good time to take stock and uproot the weeds.

  6. Victor Says:

    Ireland’s survival and the future prospects for graduates depends upon maintaining the 12.5% tax provision for companies.
    Companies like Apple and other IT powerhouses as well as Big Pharma located in Ireland because of the taxes and educated graduates.
    Those graduates are fungible–if the tax changes the IT and drug companies will relocate and skilled graduates will follow—Ireland will revert to a tourist attraction in the EuroThemePark–handicapped by bad weather–ie tourists will go to Greece,Turkey,Spain and Italy before Ireland.
    The talent is already leaving–50,000 this year alone–so property prices will continue to decline.


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