The Government has given €5 million to IT Tralee in emergency funding, in an effort to keep Kerry’s sole third-level institution afloat.
IT Tralee have experienced serious cash-flow problems in recent years, and this emergency funding is needed to pay staff, and prevent drastic cuts.
The Department of Education and Skills did not state whether the money will be repayable. It said that this will be decided following a new review of the institution’s “sustainability plan” and their financial situation.
The solvency of the institution has repeatedly been called into question in recent years. Currently, there are 2,800 full-time students enrolled, and 350 staff employed.
The number of students enrolled in the college has fallen drastically in the past few years however. Between 2014/2015 and 2017/2018, the student population dropped by 15%. The number of teachers did not, which led to the university being overstaffed, and haemorrhaging money.
Another cause for the financial shortfall is the Kerry Sports Academy – a state of the art facility opened in May this year. The total cost reached €19m, €3-4m of which has not been paid, an independent review led by Deloitte found.
The Higher Education Authority (HEA), who have been monitoring the financial situation of the institute released a statement saying that their “extensive engagement” with the staff of IT Tralee, “determined that emergency funding of €5 million was necessary in 2019 to ensure the stability of the institute and was subsequently approved by the HEA and the department”.
They added: “This funding is subject to IT Tralee undertaking a stability and sustainability plan. The development of this plan is under way, and will be considered by its governing body and the HEA.”
The Irish Times report that even with this grant, it will be tricky for IT Tralee to reach financial stability, reporting that the institute has deficits of at least €10 million, though some worst-case projections indicate this could grow to €21 million.
IT Tralee’s financial difficulties might go some way in explaining why the proposed merger with Cork Institute of Technology fell through. Despite a majority of the Teachers Union of Ireland (TUI) voting for the proposal, it is understood that Cork Institute of Technology did not want to absorb IT Tralee’s growing deficit.