University of Limerick (UL) president Dr Des Fitzgerald has announced today that he plans to resign amid Covid-19 concerns.
Speaking to the Irish Independent, Dr Fitzgerald said the virus “would directly impact my ability to serve the university and limit my ability to fully engage once we get our community back onto the campus”.
He added his warning that the Covid-19 pandemic would shape the future of higher education sector for the next decade and will force universities across the country to assess their business and academic models.
Dr Fitzgerald said: “Significant changes and investment will be required to support the sector.”
He added it is vital that the government “stepped up to the plate to protect the University sector in Ireland as it would play a crucial role in the economy’s recovery”.
Dr Fitzgerald delivered his resignation in the form of a letter to the UL Chancellor Mary Harney today. His resignation will take effect from later this year.
Dr Fitzgerald stated that he is confident that with the right support, the future will be “bright” for UL.
He added that it has been a “privilege” to lead the university. Dr Fizgerald said that he believes himself and his colleagues have made great progress in key issues, such as establishing a campus in Limerick, developing healthcare programmes and growing research output for the university.
In relation to Covid-19, the president stated that their strategic plan would require some review, however it remained an “important vision of what UL can become”.
Dr Fitzgerald was appointed after a period of controversy at UL in 2016, with his term in office commencing in early 2017. The controversy was surrounding allegations relating to a financial discrepancy involving billing for “irregular” items.
He said he believed they have made “important progress on tackling many of the controversial issues which predated my appointment”.
Prior to his appointment as president of UL, Dr Fitzgerald held a number of leadership positions in academic institutions. He was formally the Vice President for Research and Vice President for Health Affairs at University College Dublin (UCD).
The president’s announcement comes after the Irish Independent revealed details of correspondence from the Department of Education, stating that there were no new government plans to provide a broad support package for universities.
Universities across the country have been told to look at their own reserves, or other financial mechanisms available to them, to help deal with the fallout from the Covid-19 crisis.