University College Dublin (UCD) has indicated that the financial cost of COVID-19 restrictions on the university may approach €100 million this year. The government restrictions bring financial uncertainties for the university which has become increasingly reliant on non-exchequer income since the 2008 financial crash.

In the financial year ending in September 2018, the university brought in €587.1 million in income, with a €35.2 million surplus. In 2017, UCD had over €440 million in reserves, which will likely be used to soften the blow of the incoming recession. UCD President Andrew Deeks explained to the College Tribune that the university is “taking mitigating actions to defer expenditure where possible”. 

A university spokesperson told the College Tribune: “As we draw closer to the end of the academic year, the President will seek to mitigate the enormous financial cost of the COVID-19 restrictions on the University. The financial impact on the University may approach €100m this year. The [University Management Team (UMT)] has already instructed Colleges, Schools and Units to cut expenditure and pause initiatives as the impact is assessed.”

In a recent ‘President’s Bulletin’, President Deeks appealed to “colleges and schools to do whatever they can to ensure that students who have applied to attend UCD next academic year actually do come.” These calls follow growing fears of a decline in international students at UCD next year amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2017, income generated from non-EU students amounts for over 20% of UCD’s income. The Irish Times has reported that universities expect international student numbers will fall by as much as 80% next year, presenting a number of problems for UCD as “Ireland’s global university”. 

Last year, UCD had 8,428 international students on the main campus, 3,984 students in overseas operations and a total of 33,285 students enrolled worldwide. Non-EU undergraduate students can pay between €10,000 and €55,000 for tuition fees alone, while postgraduates tend to pay between €10,000 and €35,000. With thousands of internationals likely to stay in their home countries next year, the loss of income for UCD may prompt cuts in services, supports and capital projects on-campus. 

Outlining that students will not be expected to suffer financially, President Deeks has told the College Tribune: “We do not expect to impose any additional costs on students beyond the increases already communicated,” referencing the rent increases on-campus next year  going on to suggest “there are likely to be delays in continuing our improvement in student: faculty ratio, in implementing additional student support measures and in executing some elements of our capital programme.”

UCD’s consolidated accounts do not include the financial statements of the UCD Foundation, an independent charity which seeks to raise funds for the university through alumni events and donations. The UCD Foundation receives income from renting our conference rooms and halls in the University Club and O’Reilly Hall on campus. The charity will likely suffer financial hardship due to the loss of income from these sources. 

More to follow…


Conor Capplis – Editor