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UCD President Warns of “Very Severe” Financial Impact for University Over COVID-19 Pandemic

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UCD President Andrew Deeks has said that the potential long-term impacts of COVID-19 for UCD could be “very serious” and have a severe impact on the university’s commercial activities. The President has appealed to recruitment staff to ensure international students, who make up over 20% of UCD’s annual income, attend the university next year. Deeks has also postponed the appointment of new academic staff under the Ad Astra Fellow scheme. 

In his recent bulletin to UCD staff, President Deeks warned of the potential economic fallout for the university due to COVID-19.

The President stressed how dependent the university is on non-exchequer funding: “Less than 35% of our income currently comes from direct operational grants from the Government, and any fall off in our income from international students will have far-reaching consequences.” Deeks also warned of the potential long-term impacts of this crisis on UCD, saying the consequences could be “very serious” for staff and students. 

President 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 UCD President also appealed to recruitment staff to “continue their efforts” in attracting international students, as well as asking “colleges and schools to do whatever they can to ensure that students who have applied to attend UCD next academic year actually do come.” 

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 international students’ fees. 

The President also announced he was pausing the Ad Astra Fellow appointment process for three months “to allow us to obtain more clarity on the state of our finances going forward.” The scheme hires early career academics from around the world to UCD. Last year over 70 academics were hired, with 40 expected to be hired this year. According to President Deeks, “the Ad Astra Fellowship scheme is part of an ambitious plan to increase our faculty numbers by 500 over five years, which is one of the key enablers of [UCD’s 2020-2024] strategy.”

Deeks also thanked UCD staff and students, particularly those involved in efforts to combat the spread of COVID-19 for “working unselfishly to support our students and the wider community over this extraordinary time.” 

He also made a detailed statement on the dangers of the new virus, explaining that although “the great majority of our employees and students, and for healthy people of working age [COVID-19] is unlikely to be more severe than a winter cold or flu,” the virus has a “disproportionate impact on the elderly and those with certain underlying medical conditions.”

The UCD campus is currently operating under “out-of-office” protocols, resulting in heightened restrictions on staff and student present on campus.

From Monday 23rd March, UCD students began college for the first time through the online system Brightspace. Following a two-week break, students have returned to lectures happening via Zoom video conferencing system. 

The current closure of schools and universities in Ireland is scheduled until March 29th. Speaking on GalwayBay FM on Tuesday, Minister Joe McHugh said that schools will not be reopening in the short term, hinting at a full statement to be released in the coming days. 

 

Conor Capplis – Editor

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