Unprecedented Cuts to Student Services

Tommy Gavin

Deputy Editor

  • College Board waits five months to reveal landmark reductions to student service budgets
  • No student representation on planning group for Trinity’s next five years
  • No mention of cuts in minutes of College Board meetings where they were decided

Trinity College is set to cut funding allocations for capitated bodies in Trinity by 10% over two years, with two annual cuts of 5%. As outlined in a draft budget document obtained by Trinity News, there will be a reduction of nearly ¤60,000 in overall allocations for Dublin University Central Athletic Club (DUCAC), the Central Societies Committee (CSC), the Trinity College Students Union (TCDSU), the Graduate Students Union (GSU) and Trinity Publications; which includes Trinity News. Each capitated body has representatives on the Capitations Committee, which is chaired by the Senior Dean Prof Moray McGowan.

The money in the capitations budget comes from the annual student contribution charge, otherwise known as the registration fee which is paid by all students, undergraduate and postgraduate. Before 2002, students paid a direct “capitation fee” which went straight to the capitated bodies for the provision of services and extra-curricular activities for students. This was streamlined into and made part of the overall registration fee in 2002, though with the same amount of money going to the Capitation Committee. Sources within the committee acknowledge that they were expecting cuts, but along the lines of 3-5%, not 10% over two years which they say are “precedent setting.”

The cuts had been decided during a meeting on the 26th of June 2013 of the Planning Group which meets fortnightly. They are responsible for implementing and developing the Strategic Plan 2014-2019 of the College, though there is no student representation in the group. The Strategic Plan 2014-2019 is focused on attracting more students from outside Ireland, “harnessing the disruptive potential of technology in delivering education,” and rebranding the college. Minutes from the June meeting under the heading “Planning Group Report No. 9” note that the College requires “further income to meet its expenditure,” and that Schools are being asked to “deliver more programmes with less resources.” It makes no mention of reductions to capitated bodies. Senior Dean Prof McGowan was neither at the meeting nor is he on the Planning Group. The cuts were disclosed in an email from Prof McGowan who noted that he received “no formal notification of the decision” until the 14th of November, and that it was one of many financial decisions made during the June meeting under recommendation of the Planning Group.

Minutes from the Finance Committee Meeting of 19 September 2013 reference Planning Group Report No. 9 and note that “budgets had been communicated to Schools and Administrative and Support Areas, with a detailed breakdown of planned expenditure to be provided by each are over the coming weeks,” but they also make no mention of cuts to capitated bodies. In real terms, DUCAC is to be reduced by 17,690, CSC reduced by ¤17,916, TCDSU reduced by ¤16,229, GSU cut by ¤2,998 and Publications by 2,423. Sources in the capitated bodies have told Trinity News the lack of any kind of consultation or communication is the most insulting aspect of the cuts, as they were revealed five months after they were decided, which massively unsettles their own internal budgeting. Similar sentiments are found throughout the academic environment, as department heads are increasingly feeling alienated from decision making processes and strategy within the College. Speaking to Trinity News, President of the Graduate Students’ Union Ryan Kenny said that “one of our biggest projects every year is Postgraduate Orientation Week,” the success of which is noted in the appendix to the minutes of the June 26 meeting. “Over the last two years, the GSU has developed a comprehensive orientation programme for postgrads. This welcomes thousands of newly-arrived postgrads to College every year, and is organised and delivered solely by the GSU. In other words, the College relies on the GSU to make good on its commitment to provide an adequate orientation to the students. This year, our orientation programme cost us about 5% of our annual budget – precisely the amount we stand to lose for the coming year.”

Students Union President Tom Lenihan said that “the decision taken is a cynical one, and was taken without students’ consultation. That is very worrying because the Higher Education Authority (HEA), in their framework for the allocation of student services, emphasise the need for student representation and identify them as a key stakeholder. If we’re going to talk about good governance in Trinity, we need to include key stakeholders. There is no strategic plan for student services, the student experience or the capitations process.”

Trinity News has learned that the capitations committee has sent a letter to board, outlining their opposition to the cuts and to having been excluded from the decision making process. Trinity News has also learned that the Students Union has sought legal consultation on the matter.

Tommy Gavin

Journalist of the Year, Student Media Awards 2013, Journalist of the Year, Student Achievement Awards 2013