Cutbacks the order of the day in UCD as year begins

University College Dublin has agreed to abolish an allowance and special payments made to senior academics following anger surrounding the high salaries and perks enjoyed by some staff members. Special Allowances for 60 staff members have been abolished following talks between the Higher Education Authority and the college.

UCD President Hugh Brady will lose out on a yearly allowance of €12,271. These talks saw agreement reached that twelve staff members, seven vice- presidents and five college principals would each lose up to €25,000 in expenses. Furthermore the thirty-five heads of the various schools in the college will miss out on between €7,000 and €18,000 per annum dependent upon the size of the school.

The HEA has also been examining special payments made to staff across the University sector and indicated that any payments found to have been unauthorised would have to be repaid in their entirety. Meanwhile special performance related payments made to 16 senior academics in UCD have also been abolished. This has seen one senior academics’ salary package drop in excess of €80,000 per annum from a peak salary of €400,000.

The ending of performance related pay packages has also been announced by UCD, with academics losing out on bonuses worth between 5 and 30 per cent of their salary. These performance related pay packages had been seen as a key weapon used by the university to attract more top staff and improve UCD’s position in performance league tables.

Unions representing the 3,500 staff had raised concerns regarding the receipt of special payments to senior academics and administrators.

UCD has had to embark upon a massive cost cutting programme with debts estimated at around €13-15 million. Such levels of indebtedness have been a major problem for many Irish universities with UCC also showing serious deficits. Annual turnover in UCD is believed to be around €384million, of which the payroll accounts for 74 per cent.

During a meeting which was attended by 1,000 of UCDs 3,500 staff last January, Dr Brady had warned that a number of measures were being considered to deal with the problems that existed. These solutions included voluntary pay freezes and cuts, early retirements, and reduced hours. Indeed a government intervention to try and stem the problems late last year saw a government recruitment ban across the entire higher education sector.

Dr Brady has stated UCD’s debt could increase by up to €20million Euro in 2009 as a result of a number of factors. These include a reduction in government funding down from €13 million, under-funding of a number of academic disciplines including the veterinary school in UCD which accounts for €7 million of the deficit.

With the possibility of further government spending restrictions facing the third level sector over the next year there may be even more cutbacks on the way across all third level institutions.