Irish universities have been granted permission from the Government to hire more than 1500 new permanent staff members this year in an effort to improve student-staff ratios. UCD will see 156 new employees in the move which will see an end to the employment control framework which has been imposed on third-level institutions since 2010.
The current student-staff ratio in Ireland is 23:1, compared to the European norm of 15:1. It is understood that this new employment system will better align with the current realities of the sector.
There will be 1562 new posts in total. The Atlantic Technological University will receive the biggest increase of 192 new staff. Followed by UCD with 156 new employees, TU Dublin will employ 150 new members, University of Limerick will hire 140, UCC are set to employ 124 additional staff and finally, Trinity College Dublin will hire 119 new employees.
The hiring restrictions combined with the rising student numbers have resulted in overcrowded lecture halls, reduced access to laboratories, and limited access to libraries and academic support. Furthermore, the employment controls led to precarious short-term contracts for young workers.
Last March, postgraduate workers protested at the Dáil as part of an ongoing campaign for substantial improvements to their pay and working conditions. In Ireland, the average pay for those undertaking research and teaching while pursuing PhDs is just €7.88 per hour – well below the national minimum wage. The UCDSU have also been vocal in their protests against the exploitation of post-graduate workers at University College Dublin.
Taking to Twitter, Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris said that he is “pleased to have made progress this year on staffing in higher education.” However, he added that there is much more to do and that “a broader reform” of the employment framework is needed.
The Irish Universities Association also welcomed moves to improve staff-student ratios and recruit more full-time staff.
However, the association’s director general, Jim Miley, said that student numbers have grown by more than one-third since the employment control framework was introduced, while permanent staff levels have grown by just 10 per cent. Speaking to the Irish Times he said that the Government should “…pledge to increase core funding by €307 million per year.”
The Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI), which represents more than 4,000 staff in higher education, also welcomed moves to hire more staff in the sector. However, TUI’s Martin Marjoram, said the ratio of students to teaching staff at third level remains “vastly and unacceptably” higher than European averages.
“This is a clear and shameful indictment of the political refusal to address the sector’s funding crisis, which has resulted in larger class sizes and less access to laboratories, equipment, materials, libraries, and tutorials,” he said.
Emma Hanrahan – Co-Editor