More than €850m a year is generated by the activities and staff of University College Cork, or almost €5.70 for every €1 invested by the Government.
A review of the university’s economic impact also says it supports 14,708 jobs, or around one in 15 jobs in the city and county.
Amid concerns about the ability of colleges to continue to cater for growing student numbers without significant extra public funding, UCC president Patrick O’Shea commissioned the report after beginning in the job last year.
“I was impressed by a sense of UCC’s key role in the region. Yet, being a scientist, I wanted an evidence base substantiated through analyses,” said Prof O’Shea.
Although the impact has been assessed internally in a report prepared by the Cork University Business School, it was externally reviewed by economist Anton Muscatelli. He is vice-chancellor of the University of Glasgow and an expert in the field of third-level impact.
The total economic impact in 2016 has been calculated as €727m in spending, and contributions of tax and social insurance payments totalling €125m. However, the report says, this has been generated through public investment of only €151m.
Spending by UCC students alone is estimated at €187.5m a year, with 4,100 graduates calculated as earning a combined €24.8m more in their first year after leaving UCC in 2016 than non-graduates.
“Producing far more than we consume, such as the €5.68 return on every €1 invested by the State in 2016, the report underlines the wisdom of investing in third-level institutions,” Prof O’Shea wrote in a foreword to the report.
While the €151m public investment in UCC represented just 43% of its €350m turnover in 2016, the report says the State directly received 83c for every euro invested, in the form of Vat and payroll taxes.
At its annual conference this weekend, Irish Federation of University Teachers general secretary Joan Donegan accused the Government of financially starving the universities.
She called for all those involved in third-level education to make a joint approach to Government on the issue.
“While the Government has found it possible up to now to ignore our individual and varied demands for adequate funding, a joint approach based on our common demands would help to force a reversal of the disastrous funding policies of recent years,” said Ms Donegan.
“The stark facts are that our colleges are being financially starved and strangled, while the detailed analysis on funding contained in the 2016 Cassells Report is being ignored and shelved.”
She said that universities are instead expected to find income from just about anywhere but the public purse.
“From more international students, from philanthropy, from developing ever more ingenious means to undermine pay and conditions,” said Ms Donegan.
“From requiring staff to devote excessive hours to bringing in research monies at the expense of teaching.”
She said the crisis was exacerbated by the increase in an employers’ levy that goes into a national training fund, a move she said seeks to shift the emphasis even further onto private funding.
Education Minister Richard Bruton is waiting on a report from the Oireachtas Committee on the 2016 Cassells Report before making any proposals to Cabinet on higher education funding policy.
However, the committee has said its deliberations are being delayed because it has not received the analysis it sought from Mr Bruton’s department of the impacts of any increased funding.
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