Hugh Brady, President of the University of Bristol and former University College Dublin (UCD) President, has called the lack of third level funding in Ireland “a national crisis”.
Brady’s remarks came while speaking at the British Irish Chamber of Commerce earlier today, where he emphasized “major cuts in state funding per student; an unwillingness to grasp the nettle of tuition fees or loans to fill the gap; significant erosion of its research funding base; and significant shackling of university autonomy” as important indicators of Ireland’s neglect of both higher education and research systems. He told the Chamber that “the ducking and diving of third level funding has to stop”.
Brady served as the President of the University College Dublin from 2004 to late 2013, during which UCD underwent a rapid rise in the QS World University Rankings, peaking at 89th in 2009. He now serves as President of Bristol University, which by “a conservative estimate” he said “receives 25% more per student in funding than either University College Dublin and Trinity College Dublin”.
As it stands, state funding per student in Ireland is down 43% from where it was 10 years ago. Irish Universities have in recent years fallen out of the top 100 in world rankings, with many citing the state underfunding as a major factor. This year, Irish Universities managed to secure only one of over 400 prestigious European Research (ERC) Grants offered by the European Research Council. Brady mentioned that Bristol University alone managed to secure more grants than every Irish third level institution put together.
“The ERC is an international badge of excellence – it is unconscionable that Ireland has fallen so far!”
Brady also cautioned Ireland to not let the future of Brexit, and Ireland’s future as an English speaking capital in the EU, lead to inaction: “it should be remembered that the UK is taking mitigation steps to enhance its attractiveness to international students and top European universities in Holland and Scandinavia – many ranked significantly higher than the Irish universities – are now offering an ever-expanding menu of high quality undergraduate and postgraduate degrees taught solely through English.”
In response, Jim Miley, Director General of the Irish Universities Association, asked for Brady’s comments to be taken as a “wake-up call for all Irish politicians on the continued under investment in Irish Universities”.
In a press statement Miley said: “As the UK Government invests in its universities in the face of Brexit uncertainty, I would urge the Irish government to do the same and use next week’s budget as the first opportunity to act.”