President Deeks Petitioned Government to Fast-Track 220 International Student Visas Last Summer

Last summer UCD President Andrew Deeks petitioned the government minister for Education Richard Bruton and Justice minster Frances Fitzgerald to fast-track 220 international student visa applications. The correspondence was the only policy issue President Deeks raised with the minister for Education, with all letters and emails between the UCD President and the minister being released to the Tribune under the Freedom of Information act. President Deeks was mainly concerned with the threat of a financial loss due to delays in issuing visas to non-EU students who were scheduled to attend UCD last summer, the body of correspondence released revealed.

On 1st July 2016 Deeks sent a letter to both Richard Bruton and minister for Justice Francis Fitzgerald, to ask them to help bypass delays in the Dublin visa office processing 220 international students study visas. The letter stated that Deeks heard that applications processed in the Dublin visa office had on average a 14 week processing time. Deeks outlined that 220 students requiring visas from the Dublin office were offered a place in UCD for September 2016 and expressed concern that based on the ‘current visa processing time, these students would not receive their visa in time to commence their studies.’

The letter stated the ‘revenue from non-EU students enrolled in our programmes now plays a significant role in ensuring the financial stability of the university’. If the 220 students did not receive visas before the start of term, the ‘revenue loss would be €4.4 million in 2016/2017 and €6.8 million over the duration of these students’ programmes, alongside ‘reputational damage for Ireland and its international educational profile’. Deeks sent a further letter on 8th July to thank the Tánaiste for her action in response to his letter from the previous week. He expressed delight that ‘UCD staff had the opportunity to meet with the relevant staff of your department today’ and resolve the issue.

The letter from Deeks stated the ‘revenue from non-EU students enrolled in our programmes now plays a significant role in ensuring the financial stability of the university’

Other correspondence included routine invitations to events, for example the opening of the 350-bed new Ashfield residences bloc on campus and the UCD festival that took place over the summer. President Deeks did not raise the issue of the university funding crisis in any of the released official correspondence between the government Education minister.

Minister Bruton contacted Deeks on 6th September 2016 regarding an Irish Education Trade Mission to China. The letter explained how Ireland was going to be awarded the ‘prestigious Country of Honour role’ at the China Annual Conference for International Education so he was seeking knowledge on ‘Ireland’s engagement with China in the area of education’. The letter asked for information including the number of Chinese students enrolled in UCD, the number of UCD’s Irish exchange students currently studying in China, details on engagements with the Chinese Higher Education Institutions and plans for further engagements with them, and ‘any new educational developments currently being considered by your Institution.’ The letter suggested a ‘one page profile that would help me in my engagement with Chinese officials’.

Deeks replied on the 16th September with the answers in the suggested format. The document stated there were 686 Chinese students studying in UCD and 1,015 Chinese students studying at the Beijing Dublin International College (BDIC), a joint college between UCD and Beijing University of Technology. There were 81 Chinese exchange students currently enrolled in UCD, with 25 UCD students currently studying abroad in China. 20 of these were Irish.

UCD’s current engagements with Chinese Higher Education Institutions included BDIC and the UCD Confucius Institute, a joint-institute between UCD and Renmin University. The document stated that the ‘first purpose built Confucius Institute building in the world’ was under construction on the Belfield campus. It also noted UCD planned to sign Memorandums of Understanding (MOU) with Northeast Agricultural University, Soochow University, University of International Business and Economics, and Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, to set up further partnerships. At the China Education Trade Mission Irish universities signed 28 MOUs with their Chinese counterparts while Bruton was forced to leave the trip early over threats of strike action by secondary school teachers.

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Cian Carton  News Editor

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