5 Irish third-level institutions facing grim financial future

4 Jan 2016

Five of Ireland’s biggest third-level institutions are in danger of being put in a precarious financial position as they struggle with funding cuts and an ever-growing student population.

The Irish third-level institutions are among those most familiar to Irish students and graduates – Dundalk IT, Waterford IT, Letterkenny IT, Galway Mayo IT and the Dublin-based National College of Art and Design (NCAD).

According to The Irish Times, the Higher Education Authority (HEA) has looked into the dangerous position these institutions find themselves in, with much of the blame for financial difficulties being blamed on the considerable decreases in State funding, tied in with Ireland’s increasing student population, which remains one of the largest in Europe per capita.

To make matters worse, the increase in student numbers since 2008 coincides with the beginning of the recession that hit Ireland particularly hard, resulting in huge cuts across the board, particularly in education.

Since this time, State funding has been slashed in half, which has led to a downward spiral driven by financial penalties for poor performance, which are in turn often spurred on by a university’s lack of resources.

However, the HEA says that, for the time being, there are no fears that these institutions will collapse, but efforts will be needed to ensure that they don’t stray too far into the red.

Alternative sources of funding

If a university fails to meet pre-agreed educational targets set by the HEA, the authority has the right to withhold 10pc of that university’s State funding, which will make the number of institutions now operating deficits particularly nervous.

Equally interesting are the revelations that the largest colleges in Ireland are facing similar financial hardship, but are easing their financial burden with deals signed as part of partnerships between academia and industry.

The largest recipient of such funding is University College Dublin (UCD), which receives €84m annually from such deals, followed by University College Cork (UCC) with €80m and Trinity College Dublin (TCD) with €76m.

In comparison, Waterford IT – which is the home of research centres like TSSG – receives €17m per year.

Library image via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic