Luck of the Irish: Academy escapes swingeing cuts

December 16, 2010

Universities have expressed relief following the relatively modest cuts to higher education funding announced in the Republic of Ireland's emergency Budget last week.

The grant allocated to universities and institutes of technology in Ireland has been cut by 7 per cent from €1.2 billion (£1 billion) in 2010 to €1.1 billion next year. This includes a cut in the non-pay grant (which covers everything except salary costs) of 5 per cent.

The €1,500 "student-services charge" - designed to cover the cost of the administration of university education rather than teaching, but criticised by the Union of Students in Ireland as "fees by any other name" - has been replaced by a flat "higher education student contribution" of €2,000 a year.

With the additional income from students, this means the overall cut to the Irish academy's core grant equates to just 2.5 per cent.

Students will also face a 4 per cent reduction in the value of student-support grants, available to roughly a third of undergraduates.

Ned Costello, chief executive of the Irish Universities Association, welcomed the relative leniency of the cuts.

"It's hard to say that we are happy about a cut, but in the circumstances this represents a very welcome move on the part of the government to prioritise investment in knowledge," he said.

However, the capital grant for universities has been halved from €169 million last year to €82 million in 2011. Mr Costello warned that this could mean more crumbling buildings on campus.

"Universities already raise substantial amounts of money for capital (projects), so it's a signal that they have to be more proactive in fundraising," he said.

Despite relief at the relatively small scale of the cuts, not everyone was happy. Mike Jennings, general secretary of the Irish Federation of University Teachers, warned that the Budget had failed to develop the academy as a vehicle for economic recovery in Ireland.

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