UCD President Andrew Deeks’ Presidential Bulletin is the main way in which staff can keep up to date with the life of President. Bulletins usually consist of an account of the names and places of conferences that he is attending, with brief notes about what was discussed at them.
The news section of this issue features a number of stories on Deeks, including his trip to Ghana, and upcoming alumni tours to Australia and China. Bulletins 170 and 171 are of particular interest, as they both provide accounts of Deeks’ time at the 2017 Conference of the International Association of Universities (IAU) in Accra, the capital of Ghana.
The theme of the IAU’s Global Meeting of Associations and International Conference was ‘Leadership for a Changing Public-Private Higher Education Funding Landscape’. At the event, Deeks chaired a panel discussion on the ‘Impact on Governance Models of New Higher Education Funding Realities.’
Deeks’ comments on the changing perception of higher education funding is probably one of the most revealing insights into his frustration with the sector. He was previously unhappy with the level of criticism that an income contingent loan scheme received when it was listed in the Cassells Report, ‘Investing in National Ambition: A Strategy for Funding Higher Education.’
The other main options in that report were to make third level education completely free, or to increase government funding to continue to make it ‘free’ at the point of access. These two options would both require a large increase in State funding. In contrast, the loan scheme would lower the need for State funding, by shifting the cost onto students.
These observations link into Deeks’ comments from the conference. He stated there is an ‘increasing desire by politicians to hold universities ‘accountable’ for the public funds they receive, and to want to control how these are used.’ Increased government funding will naturally attract increased scrutiny.
Yet, UCD’s financial accounts to the 30th of September 2016 show that government funding actually dropped by 2.3%, down to €62 million. It will be interesting to see whether the numbers behind the latest accounts correspond with what is being claimed.