Irish universities ‘may struggle to pay staff’ due to funding gap

Further €92 million needed to cover existing staff costs, Irish University Association tells government

July 2, 2024
A homeless person's tent beside the iconic Molly Malone bronze statue in Suffock Street, Dublin City Centre
Source: iStock/Derick Hudson

Irish universities may be unable to pay their existing staff if the government does not provide supplementary funding, the Irish Universities Association (IUA) has warned.

In a publication ahead of this autumn’s budget, the IUA says the gains delivered through the May 2022 Funding the Future initiative, which saw the government pledge to close an annual core funding gap of €307 million (£260 million) across several budgets, have been “eroded by unfunded pay awards arising from national pay agreements”.

Of the €100 million gross funding received so far through Funding the Future, €92 million had already been lost to pay in inflation, the IUA says.  

Calling for a €92 million supplementary budget to pay existing staff, the IUA, which represents eight Irish universities, says a further €171 million would be required in the 2025 budget to continue to cover staff costs.

The association further calls for an additional €120 million through the Funding the Future initiative. “This will go directly to addressing the student-staff ratio, which at 19.6:1 is well out of line with other key competitor countries,” the IUA says, pointing to the European Union average of 17.1 students per staff member.

“Each university in the state is faced with a shortage of funds to pay for existing staff this year. Collectively, this amounts to €92 million,” IUA director general Jim Miley said. “That €92 million is what is needed just to stand still, with a further €171 million required in 2025 to break even. It is now absolutely critical that the government fully funds the pay awards negotiated by them as part of the national pay round.”

“It is critical that the necessary investment is made to enable universities to pay for the staff required to maintain a quality higher education for their students and to deliver the necessary support services,” Mr Miley said. “Underpinning the quality and resilience of higher education is mission-critical to Ireland’s competitiveness”.

Ireland’s universities are expected to record combined deficits of about €15 million this year, The Irish Times reported in April, with the University of Limerick, University College Cork and Technological University Dublin of particular concern to the Higher Education Authority (HEA).

Last month, TU Dublin suspended intake on 14 courses in an effort to address a deficit of almost €9 million. In February, the HEA ordered the university’s governing body to review its management of the deficit, expressing “serious concerns” about the institution’s financial state.

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