UCD set to cut course places over funding problems

The country’s largest university is to look at cutting places for Leaving Certificate students in the coming years unless funding problems are urgently addressed.

The warning came from University College Dublin president Prof Andrew Deeks, who said the college’s improvement in the latest global rankings is down to taking in more international students and using their fees to hire extra staff.

It is one of three Irish institutions to move up the QS World University Rankings, rising from 176th last year to 168th, but still below its 154th position in 2015 and 89th place in 2009. Trinity College Dublin remains Ireland’s only Top 100 university in the QS rankings, moving from 98th to 88th, but far off its places between 43 and 67 in the 2009 to 2012 period.

NUI Galway is the only Irish college to move up the QS table each year since 2011, improvement slightly today from 249th to 243rd.

University College Cork stays at 283rd, Dublin City University is down from 380 to 391. University of Limerick (in the 501-550 banding) and DIT (651-700) are unchanged, and Maynooth University slips into the 701-750 banding.

As political decisions are awaited on what is expected to be a €600m annual shortfall in higher education funding by 2010, Prof Deeks said the Government’s failure to address the issue means non-exchequer income has been the only way for UCD to increase staff numbers.

“This has been raised primarily by recruiting additional non-EU students. This has directly improved UCD’s ranking under the staff-student ratio criterion, but it remains unacceptably low compared with competitor universities overseas.”

However, while it has increased its intake of Irish students annually since 2008, whose tuition fees are paid from decreasing public funding, this is to be reviewed.

“Unless there is movement on the funding of Irish students soon, the university will have to seriously consider the option of reducing the number of places available to Irish students in order to preserve quality,” said Prof Deeks.

A cap on places in universities and institutes of technology was not recommended in last July’s report of Peter Cassells. It proposed, instead, a range of options to bridge a growing funding gap, including students getting loans to pay higher college fees.

Despite record numbers beginning the Junior Certificate yesterday and consecutive governments insisting on keeping progression rates to third-level high, some colleges have started limiting intake after increasing enrolments despite funding cuts since 2008.

Shane Cassells, a Fianna Fáil member of the Dáil Public Accounts Committee, suggests reviewing the continuing rise in third-level intakes. He points to a €50m-plus cost of tuition and grants for over 6,000 first-year students who drop out of college courses annually, but who might be better suited to alternative education paths after school.

News: 6-8

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