The allocation of funding towards respective faculties is an apparent issue that a lot of students, and staff alike, have reservations about. It is perceived that the scientific research in UCD gets preferential treatment when it comes to the distribution of funding because this is the best avenue through which to boost the University’s reputation.
Concurrently, this is thought to take away from other aspects of the college, such as the School of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences.
Speaking about these hesitations surrounding funding of faculties, Deeks reiterates his desire to see the University aspire for excellence on all fronts.
“To me it is very important to have a strong Arts, Humanities and Social Science focus within the University, but to be a world-class university, one has to have this breadth of disciplines. I’ll certainly be working with those colleges to ensure the issues that they see being the case are addressed.
“We are already seeing a vision for the precinct of the Newman Building and the James Joyce library and to see what could be done to bring it up to the standard that we see in other parts of the campus.”
These issues with funding should take centre stage in the coming years as Deeks’ UCD will be forced to back-up the aforementioned commitments. However, the issue on most students’ minds is that of full third-level fees being reintroduced.
Deeks spoke openly about his feelings behind what system Ireland should move towards with regards to this. He emphasised that resolving this issue is crucial due to the crisis surrounding the funding of universities in this country.
“The whole issue of university funding is one that needs to be addressed within Ireland. At the moment, the amount funding per student that comes to the universities is well behind our competitors.
“If we are going to have world-class universities, then we need to be funding the universities at a similar rate to our competitors. That is something we have to look at very closely.
“Having grown up in Australia and gone through the system there, the contribution system whereby the education is free at point of entry is an important principle in terms of equity.
“I would like to see a move towards a system where universities are free at point of entry to the students and the cost of the university education may be shared between the state and the student, but only after the student benefits from the education.
“After they graduate and they get a good job and are on a good salary, then they are in a position to pay back their contribution to their education [through the taxation system]. If they don’t benefit from it, then they shouldn’t have to pay it back.”
Imposing such a system could lead to a brain drain of domestic academic talent, an issue that Deeks feels should be offset by the immigrants coming to Ireland who have already paid for their education, which Ireland will now benefit from.
“The immigration into Ireland and the ability to attract young people from the UK and Australia are coming into Ireland with an education that has already been paid for by their particular government.
“As long as we can assure that the Irish economy is strong enough that we are attracting in the same number of educated people that we are losing through emigration, then it should be a net balance.”
During the conversation, a significant number of hurdles that UCD student will have to navigate over the course of his tenure crop up, and it is difficult to assert what will be the paramount challenge to students.
Deeks feels that the main challenge the University and students will face jointly is resolving this problem of sourcing where third-level funding will inevitably come from.
“It’s really being able to work with the HEA and the Department of Education to ensure that the vision of the government doesn’t impede and restrict actually our delivery of that vision.
“They have a great vision, but when they’re too managerial, then it affects our ability to deliver it. There are a couple of specific things that I referred to; the problem of the funding to universities per student is something that has to be resolved.
“And another thing is the connection of the academic pay scale to the public service pay scales. While those two are linked in that way so that our academic scales are no comparable with our international competitors, then it restricts the ways we can build the universities in the way actually the government would like to see them built.
“So we have to resolve the tension between the government’s ambition and the way the Department of Education and Skills and the HEA are trying to realise that ambition and in the process, restricting it.”