Trinity is among seven Irish universities launching a joint campaign today aimed at improving standards of third level education in Ireland.
The seven universities which comprise the Irish Universities Association (IUA) signed a charter which outlines what they believe is a path to placing Irish universities among the highest ranking in Europe by 2026. The document sets out a number of main objectives, many of which would require additional government funding or legislative change to achieve.
The charter is critical of government policy regarding what it describes as a “decade of under-investment” and proposes increasing state investment in higher education in each of the next three annual budgets by €150m, €180m, and €230m respectively.
One key area of contention between the charter and government policy is current caps on the wages of academic staff, in addition to restrictions on hiring new staff. Currently, academic staff salaries are capped at €190,000 per annum in alignment with public pay scales, with a few international researchers being granted an exception.
The universities are demanding more power to govern themselves and a move away from “rigid, centralised” government control. A number of IUA representatives spoke at the signing today, with University College Cork (UCC) President and IUA Chair Professor Patrick O’Shea stating: “The time for talking is over. The time for change has come.”
The campaign also seeks to bring Irish universities up to date with the “digital age” as well as improving research output. Jim Miley, Director General of the IUA said: “Universities worldwide are transforming and the Charter to which we have committed today is designed to move Irish universities to the forefront of that change.”
The charter proposes developing a national programme in digital learning in partnership with government and raising the national investment in research and development from the currant 1.2% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to 2% of GDP with an aim to increase PhD graduates by 30%.
Irish universities’ global rankings have taken a gradual downturn over the last decade, on average. Trinity has fallen on the Times Higher Education rankings from 76 globally in 2011 to 131 in 2017. Earlier this year, Trinity fell 16 places to 104 in the 2019 QS world university rankings.