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Students “Not Expected” to Bear Brunt of COVID-19 Financial Fallout, says UCD President.

UCD President Andrew Deeks has said that students are not expected to receive any additional costs due to potential financial fallout in the university. He has also stressed delays in additional student supports and a negative short-term impact on UCD. This comes after Deeks warned staff of “very severe” financial implications for the university due to COVID-19.

In a recent ‘President’s Bulletin,’ Deeks appealed to “colleges and schools to do whatever they can to ensure that students who have applied to attend UCD next academic year actually do come.” These calls follow growing fears of a decline in international students at UCD next year amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Income generated from non-EU students amounts for over 20% of UCD’s income.

In a statement to the Tribune, the President has said: “While the COVID-19 situation will have a negative impact on the short-term financial position of the University, longer term prospects remain bright. We are currently taking mitigating actions to defer expenditure where possible and to minimise the loss of income, while continuously monitoring the situation.”

In February, the University Management Team (UMT) made the decision to increase rent on campus by 4% year-on-year for the next three years, further increasing the cost of Ireland’s most expensive on-campus student accommodation. This move sparked a number of protests, with students calling on an immediate reversal of the decision.

In response to fears that students will experience an increase in university costs due to COVID-19 financial fallout, President Deeks has said “we do not expect to impose any additional costs on students beyond the increases already communicated,” going on to suggest “there are likely to be delays in continuing our improvement in student: faculty ratio, in implementing additional student support measures and in executing some elements of our capital programme.”

In his President’s Bulletin on March 18th, Deeks said the COVID-19 pandemic, social distancing measures and travel restrictions have had “very severe implications for our commercial activities planned for summer and more generally.” The President also warned of the potential long-term impacts of this crisis on UCD, saying the consequences could be “very serious” for staff and students.

Since the government reduced higher education funding following the last financial recession, UCD has turned to alternative sources for income. In 2009, UCD received €120m in state grants. In 2017 this was down by over 55% to just €67m. To make up for lost income, the university made strong financial gains in other areas. There has been a 250% increase in Non-EU fee income between 2009 and 2017, growing from €32m to €83m respectively. In 2017, over 20% of UCD’s income came from non-EU students’ fees.

In response to the President’s comments, Ruairí Power, Co-Chair of Fix Our Education UCD has said: “The original costs that were implemented with the rent increase [were] always unjustified and unnecessary,” Power also commented on projected financial difficulties arising from a decrease in non-EU student fees, saying “It’s absolute nonsense. He needs to stop using the international students as cash cows. […] The student supports budget is significantly lower than it was 10 years ago, despite the fact that there is a significantly higher number of students coming to UCD. Fix Our Education, we’ve spoken to students: international students, people from a variety of different backgrounds, any of them who have tried to access on campus health services were struck with the waiting lists, they were struck with how under resourced they were […] for [Deeks] to defer that [funding] is absolute nonsense. It represents a tiny fraction of the university’s expenditure on a yearly basis. If they’re planning to plough ahead with a €48million vanity project at the front entrance, including a reflecting pool, I think that would show very clearly where the university prioritises and it’s not student welfare.”

Fix Our Education UCD advocates for “safe and affordable Mental Health, Disability and Housing services in UCD” as well as criticises a number of capital funding decisions by university management.

 

Conor Capplis – Editor

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