Analysis/Comment
Should Irish universities be trusted with additional fee income?
By Michael Hennigan, Finfacts founder and editor
Nov 15, 2011 - 8:23 AM

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University College Cork

There is an increasing clamour from Irish universities and the rest of the third level sector for an reintroduction of undergraduate fees as demand for places continues to rise. However, the universities have been as cavalier with public funds as the rest of the public sector.

What is striking about the third level sector that the old refrain of asking for more money continues but there is no chance that the administrators will try and do more for less.

In 2009, Michael Murphy, UCC president, said that the reputation and capacity of Irish universities to earn research income will plummet internationally if the Government failed to continue supporting research in the December 2009 Budget.

Murphy like all his counterparts want more spending on research but they have nothing to say on outcomes - - because the facts are inconvenient.

Last week he told The Irish Times that the rankings of most Irish universities have fallen dramatically in the past two years, reflecting staffing and other cuts imposed across the third-level sector since 2009.

Salaries account for three-quarters of total current expenditure on higher education in Ireland, compared with an international average of two-thirds. This means that Irish higher education operates with lower (nonpay) recurrent expenditure than is typical in other countries.

Reputation and international rankings may keep university presidents awake at night but these obsessions are divorced from the realities of a country facing a decade of economic challenges.

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