Hanafin hints at no increase in third-level budget

EDUCATION Minister Mary Coughlan has hinted there will be no increases in third-level college budgets again next year despite claims our reputation is being damaged by lack of funds.

Following last week’s revelation that Ireland spends below-average sums for the number of third-level students when compared with other developed countries, university leaders said the quality of education and our ability to attract research funding and international students was in jeopardy.

The data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development was based on 2008 spending, which preceded a rise in student numbers of about 10%. Since, higher education funding has fallen by 11%, or by 20% when salaries and other staff cost reductions are included.

However, Ms Coughlan told the Irish Examiner further savings must be made elsewhere to make up for lost Exchequer income.

“I have been asked to reduce my budget like everyone else [in Cabinet] and I think there are efficiencies that can be achieved within the third-level sector. They are already collaborating with public procurement and the universities have already passed the 6% cuts that have been sought in staffing numbers in their sector and in the institutes of technology,” the minister said.

The news comes as two Irish universities appear in the top 100 of the 2010 Times Higher Education (THE) university rankings published today.

Trinity College Dublin (TCD) has been listed as 76th and University College Dublin (UCD) is 94th in a table topped by Harvard University in Boston.

In the ranking, only 16 other countries have more universities in the top 200 out of more than 17,000 higher education institutions globally.

Although colleges outside the top 200 are given indicative rather than official rankings, University College Cork (UCC) is placed 243rd, National University of Ireland Galway (NUIG) is 299th, Dublin City University 313th and Dublin Institute of Technology in 347th place, all out of more than 10,000 universities internationally.

UCD president Dr Hugh Brady said the college’s top-100 position is a considerable achievement, given the strains on higher education, and will play a small but important part in rebuilding Ireland’s international reputation.

“However, the analysis used staff and student data that preceded the Government’s sweeping cuts to higher education and the recruitment moratorium.

“Consequently, it will be difficult for Irish universities to compete in the years ahead unless the nettle of higher education funding is grasped,” he said.

TCD provost Dr John Hegarty said the university’s ranking as seventh best in Britain and Ireland, and its particularly strong research performance is a result of the talent of its people and a decade of public investment in research. “To sustain this performance, Ireland now needs to move to ensure that core funding of the university sector is comparable to that of our international competitors.”

There was mixed news in last week’s QS world university rankings that showed drops for Trinity College and UCD, but UCC and NUIG jumped up the table to 184th and 232nd, respectively.


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