The Department of Education has said they are not in a position to provide any additional funding to third level institutions despite a projected financial loss of €508 million in the sector. The Department will only provide additional support in extreme cases in which the viability of a college is threatened.
The Department recommends that third level institutions fend for themselves through their own financial reserves or through pandemic related financial support from a number of government or non-government agencies. The Department also encouraged for universities to implement cost saving measures.
It was reported in the Irish Independent on Tuesday that the Higher Education Authority (HEA) recently requested a “significant government intervention in the form of a financial support package” to support the sector “through the crisis”. However, the government has not committed any funding to support the authority’s request.
The submission by the HEA predicts losses of half a billion euro for 2020 and 2021 and stated that the recovery of the Irish knowledge-based economy will depend on the delivery of highly skilled graduates.
University College Dublin (UCD) has projected up to €100 million in negative impact by the end of the year due to the COVID-19 crisis. A projected drop in international students of 80% will see a significant loss in UCD’s budget. Non-EU students make up 39% of UCD’s total fee income of €230 million, which was just less than €90 million last year.
The Irish Independent reported that almost half of the forecast losses will be as a result of an expected downturn in the number of international students coming to Ireland. Third Level Institutions are also budgeting for a decline in other forms of income and revenue such as student accommodation revenue, research funding and visitor attraction revenue.
A further €116 million in additional costs has also been factored in by the HEA. These are the costs incurred as a result of the pandemic such as the transition to online teaching as well as future costs that may arise due to the implementation of social distancing measures upon the return to in-person classes.
It is unclear at the moment whether or not the department will provide for the requests of the HEA but officials from the department have told the HEA that they needed a detailed breakdown of every institution examining baseline funding needs in order to assess the true needs of each individual institution.
Adam O’Sullivan – Reporter