A letter from the Provost: the financial situation

Dear Staff and Students –

You are all aware from the media reports that the country is facing challenges which require drastic action on every front and we as a university will have our part to play.

Given the crucial role which high-quality university education will play in bringing the country out of recession, I am hopeful that the case I and the other University Presidents have been making for the past number of years at Government level will be reflected in the best-case budget for the sector. In my view it would be fatal to cut-back to a point where we cannot even deliver our core mission. Other countries have invested in education and research in their worst moments.

I presented a paper to the Board of the College at its meeting on 10 November in which several scenarios for the College’s finances for the next five years were presented. A worst-case and best-case scenario were outlined which ranged from a 20 percent to 10 percent cut in the Government allocation (core grant plus free fees allocation) resulting in a cut in money terms ranging from €20m (worst case) to €10m (best case) by 2013 over the 2010 level. If allowance is made for an expected downturn in research income and its contribution to overhead costs, and the additional costs that must be factored in for new space are taken into account, the funding available to the College will decrease by a further €10m. Either scenario represents an enormous problem and one that cannot be managed without drastic and far-reaching action.

There is one very positive point in our favour. We are in the fortunate position that, due to prudent management under our new central structures, the College has no budgetary deficit thereby positioning it in a relatively strong position to address the current funding crisis.

In considering the financial projections as presented, the Board agreed that we must take every step within our control to secure the College’s future financial viability. We must consider all actions that can be embedded into the system with a long-term impact without undermining the core mission. Once-off funding may be used in the initial period to off-set the expected decrease in government funding of our activities. The College’s actions will focus on: (a) increasing revenue from non-Exchequer sources: a number of sources are being considered, including increased recruitment of fee-paying students, and enhanced philanthropy and commercialisation activities; (b) cutting costs by ceasing activities and/or by introducing greater efficiencies in the use of staff resources, supported in large measure by the completion of the College’s strategy programme.

The Board agreed that my management team, including the Executive Officer Group and its Planning Group, will look at all options to secure the College’s financial future. This work has now started and a process of consultation with Heads of School, Heads of administrative and support areas, and student representatives is underway to seek solutions and mechanisms to address the financial crisis. I would also like to engage the whole community. To this end I will hold a number of public fora at the beginning of December to further discuss the situation and to solicit your suggestions.

The impact of the financial situation on the quality of teaching and the overall student experience is a cause of grave concern and I am extremely appreciative of the efforts being made by staff in all areas of the College to cope with the reduced staff numbers already taking place over the last two years. My colleagues in the IUA and I have been working actively with the HEA and the Department of Education and Skills to find solutions and to secure the best possible arrangements for the College within the context of the Employment Control Framework.

It is inevitable that personal cuts in pay, the current lack of promotional opportunities, the prospect of increased student charges as well as the adverse nature of much public commentary will have an impact on the morale of our College community, but there is also a resilience and a determination to succeed that is helping us to achieve our goals and to meet our obligations, notwithstanding the unprecedented extent of the current national crisis. By creative planning and looking at all options – short and long term – I am optimistic that we can seize the opportunities offered by the current crisis and emerge stronger and very well placed to contribute to the country’s inevitable recovery.

I hope that the Government in whatever form will not take such steps as to fatally damage the system.

John Hegarty