UCD Maintains World University Ranking

The QS World University Rankings were released earlier this week. UCD was placed at 139, maintaining its ranking from 2013. The university’s score on citations per faculty and employer reputation increased, however the student-to-faculty ratio of the university has experienced an increase on last year’s marking.

UCD has been ranked as the number one university among employers in Ireland, and was also commended for maintaining its position despite budget cuts.

Dr Andrew Deeks, President of UCD, commented on the ranking, saying “this is a clear reflection on the calibre and commitment of faculty across the entire university.” In regards to the student-to-faculty ratio, Deeks sees it as cause “for great concern” saying it “confirms the need for the mechanism and level of funding of the Irish university to be reviewed”.

As part of the QS World University Rankings universities are ranked on six metrics. Thes include academic reputation weighted at 40%, student-to-faculty ratio and citations per faculty both at 20% and employer reputation at 10%.

In this year’s QS World University Rankings, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.) was ranked number one for the third consecutive year. While M.I.T maintained its standing in the rankings, most Irish universities saw theirs fall this year. Trinity saw a fall of ten places from 61 to 71; UCC saw a drop from 210 to 230; DCU went from 349 to 366. NUI Galway broke the trend however with an increase from 284 to 280.

Commenting on the results and UCD’s overall performance in the QS World University Rankings Feargal Hynes, UCDSU President, said that considering other Irish universities movement down that ‘it is a strong result for UCD’ to hold their place for 2014.

However Hynes did raise concerns about Irish universities in general and their slipping in this years rankings saying ‘The downward movement of Irish Universities in general is a further indication that our current funding model is not sustainable and that we need to further review the ECF to enable schools and faculties to have the adequate amount of staff to engage students to the appropriate level”.

KBC Bank removed from UCD Orientation tent

Above, Students’ Union staff members discuss with AIB staff outside the Orientation Tent on Tuesday, the 2nd of September. The lower image shows the the KBC advertisements removed from the tent on Friday morning.

KBC Bank Ireland plc (KBC) were removed from the UCD Orientation Tent this week following a request made by Allied Irish Bank (AIB). Continue reading

UCD introduces smoking ban

The first policy change in plans to make UCD a smoke-free campus are in force from today. The initiative, which was passed in a referendum held last October, will see five outlets on campus (the three Student Union shops, the UCD Clubhouse and the Centra at Merville residences) prohibited from selling cigarettes. The move is being welcomed by some on campus but with concern by others.

In 2004, the Public Health (Tobacco) Acts, which saw the illegalisation of smoking indoors in public places, were also met with apprehension. However, with cigarette sales down 60% nationwide and a reported 7,000 people who have now given up smoking since the ban, attempts to make UCD smoke-free are being hailed as a positive step in the same direction.

An employee of the Library Student Union shop believes it will make a “great difference” and says that she is “most likely in favour of it” but does accept that students will find a way to smoke regardless. She does however see it as a way of “ruling something out.”

Feargal Hynes, President of UCD Student Union, confirmed there is an anti-smoking taskforce set up by a governing board in UCD and that the plan is to phase out smoking across campus with the sales prohibition being the first step. Hynes has said that the SU Board are seeking to avoid a situation that would see the plan fall through as it has before with anti-smoking areas on campus.

When asked about the possibility of designated smoking areas, Hynes said that no position would be taken until the Union’s first Council meeting.

Many have raised the question of a black market rolling out across campus as a result of the ban, with concerns of students buying in bulk and selling on campus or an exodus of students to locations off-campus to buy cigarettes.

Additionally, concerns have been raised regarding a possible campaign against the new regulations. Students have claimed it as an infringement of their freedom of choice, and also criticised UCDSU for holding the referendum on the same day as the preferendum on the SU’s stance on abortion, claiming that the move meant that the Smoke-Free Campus referendum was not given sufficient coverage or discussion.

NAMA criticise UCD Students’ Union housing proposals

A spokesperson for the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA) has criticised UCDSU’s call for the release of properties held by the bank.

A statement sent to The University Observer last night cites a misunderstanding of NAMA’s relation to the properties in question. “It is a common misconception that NAMA owns individual properties such as houses or apartments.  It does not. Like any bank,  NAMA owns loans which are secured, in turn, by individual properties but is not the owner of those properties.” The statement says that for this reason “it is not in NAMA’s powers to ‘release’ properties to accommodate students.”

The statement also challenges UCDSU’s claim that vacant NAMA properties are contributing to price inflation in the housing market, saying that “It should also be noted that the vast majority of residential units (houses or apartments) which are linked to loans held by NAMA are fully occupied already rather than lying vacant.”

UCDSU have responded by saying that they “never insinuated that NAMA owned any properties” and were “merely calling for them to ensure that all potential properties even at processing stage are made available to the market on a short term rental basis.”

Regarding availability of vacant NAMA properties, UCDSU have also said “We believe that all residences connected to NAMA loans should be made available not just ‘the vast majority’ as they have stated.”

UCDSU call for relief measures to alleviate student housing crisis

In a statement released today, the UCD Students’ Union (UCDSU) has put forward proposals aimed at offering relief and stimulating growth in the student accommodation market.

UCDSU is calling for the re-introduction of the Section 50 tax relief scheme. The scheme, which allowed investors or Universities to claim up to 90% tax relief against the rent they collect, was phased out in 2012 as part of a Government plan to ensure stability in the property market.

‘We are calling on the Government to re-introduce this scheme in the forthcoming budget’ explained Feargal Hynes, UCDSU President. While the reasoning for removing the scheme in 2012 is understood by the union, Hynes believes that the situation has since changed greatly and that the student accommodation market is now in crisis.

The statement argues that the re-introduction of the scheme can offer stimulus to the market. “This scheme, we believe will allow students in the future to rent affordable, clean and safe housing while providing a secure option for both developers and those investors who want a consistent return on their investments” Hynes explained.

UCDSU has also called on the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA) to release houses in the vicinity of universities to alleviate pressure on students looking for accommodation in these high demand areas.  Hynes stated that “with the amount of housing left vacant by virtue of the fact that they are in NAMA, this necessarily inflates the price of both the rental and sales market.”

Hynes concluded: “We are therefore calling on NAMA to release these houses onto the market. Even if they are specifically for the student market this will have the effect of taking these students out of the normal rental market in Dublin thus hopefully deflating the price for both the student and normal market.’

The statement points to a growing concern that the ongoing student housing crisis will affect Ireland’s education reputation internationally, citing the Government’s intentions to increase the amount of international students to 25,000 by 2015 coupled with increased numbers of Irish students carrying on to third level.

UCD Students’ Union to launch wellbeing-themed arts festival

UCD Students’ Union (SU), in association with UCD Ents, are to launch a new arts festival on campus this September. The event, dubbed Mind, Body and Soul, will take place in the Student Centre Quad from September 23rd to 25th.

The festival will focus on promoting student wellbeing, including mental and physical health. Each day of the festival’s three days will be themed to promote a different aspect of wellbeing with “mind”, “body” and “soul” themed days.

Speaking to The University Observer, UCDSU President Feargal Hynes said that the festival is about “positive mental health. It’s about looking after yourself, and it’s about building a community on campus, especially on residences.”

According to Hynes, much of the festival’s content will be provided by collaboration with UCD’s student societies and sports’ clubs, as well as with various national arts festivals. Hynes has noted that the event is “strictly a non-alcoholic festival” and that all features of the festival are to be “absolutely free”.

UCDSU are currently seeking sponsorship for the festival, though Hynes has indicated that much of the funding will be provided by treating the festival as a consolidation of smaller, faculty-specific wellbeing initiatives usually held by UCDSU.

Hynes is optimistic that the festival will be “very successful this year”, but expects that it will be “even more successful in the coming years as it develops”.

UPDATE: UCDSU have announced further details of the festival’s events, which will include an outdoor cinema, a silent disco and art exhibitions, as well as the chance for students to try out Lau Gar, Yoga and touch rugby. Students are also promised a “puppy cuddling” event.

Collaborations with mental health organisations will be “a key component of the festival”. UCDSU Welfare Officer Maeve DeSay has said the event will bring in “a number of mental health organizations who will be there to talk to students about looking after themselves and being able to know how to spot the warning signs amongst their friends.”

Montrose Student Accommodation unavailable for September move in

 

A development delay of approximately two months has resulted in students being unable to move into new student accommodation currently being developed on the site of the old Montrose Hotel.

The €22.5 million project, which will see the former hotel converted into privately owned student accommodation, was due to near completion this month, with some work due to continue throughout the autumn months.

Speaking to The University Observer, UCDSU  President Feargal Hynes said the union was informed that that 59 of the 166 rooms in the complex would not be available by the start of  term in September.

While the situation is not ideal at this time of year, when accommodation is already in short supply, Hynes is confident in the response of  Ziggurat, the management company behind the accommodation.

‘From the beginning the management team has been very open and good in dealing with the delays faced by students. They fully understand the issues facing students in the coming weeks’ explained Hynes. While work continues on the Montrose site students are to be housed in accommodation around the city centre, the cost of which will be covered by the company.

While the issue regards student accommodation owned by an external body, and thus outside the Students Union jurisdiction, Hynes has stressed that the union is available to assist students when an issue is raised. Last night Hynes opened the SU’s accommodation email account for those requiring assistance to contact them.

Update:

In statement sent to The University Observer on Monday morning Georgina Wade, property manager for the Montrose accommodation, explained that despite the company’s best intentions work on the complex has been delayed. ‘Despite our best efforts, the opening of two floors of the Montrose Student Residence will be delayed, due to an unanticipated level of work required to bring a very old building up to the high standards we demand’ explained Wade.

Students have been made aware of the current situation and also informed of the compensation package that has been put in place according to Wade. The compensation package made available includes first month free rent, €200 per week compensation, alternative accommodation paid for by Ziggurat and a year’s subscription to their choice of a music or movie service.

Wade concluded: ‘We’re confident that we can resolve the issue quickly, and to everyone’s satisfaction. We consulted with the Students Union in UCD, and the Accommodation Officer, and both were more than satisfied with the offers we are making to the affected students.’