Universities report €102 million loss in past academic year

ireland
Investment in technology coupled with reduced income from student accommodation has negatively impacted the universities' balance sheets.
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Digital Desk Staff

Seven major universities across the country have reported a combined deficit of €102 million since the beginning of the 2019/2020 academic year.

Representatives from the Irish Universities Association are addressing the Oireachtas Higher Education Committee today, highlighting the impact Covid-19 has had on the third level institutions.

The Association says the sector needs emergency funding next year to avoid cover their losses.

They say universities want to offer more resources to help students in need, increasing the provision of on-campus mental health and welfare services.

The Association urged policymakers to allow for more on-campus to be permitted under public health measures to support overall student wellbeing.

The move to online learning was cited as a major cost to the sector, forcing large investments in technologies to allow remote learning, in line with public health guidelines.

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These expenses were coupled with reduced incomes from student accommodation, which now have an average occupancy rate of approximately 65 per cent.

Although the sector welcomed additional funding announced by the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Simon Harris earlier this year, the Committee heard this funding will not cover their costs into next year.

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President of NUI Galway Ciaran O'hOgartaigh told the Committee there needs to be equal opportunities for people, adding universities can aid the recovery from the pandemic by giving people opportunities to further their education and skills.

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Trinity College Dublin provost, Patrick Prendergast went on to tell the Committee that online learning has shown its value throughout the pandemic, citing a study conducted by the Association.

According to the research, 70 per cent of students want more on-campus classes, with mental health issues cited as a big issue with working remotely.

Mr Prendergast added he feels an element of remote learning should continue.

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