The Irish Universities Association (IUA), of which UCD is affiliated, had close to a €2 million increase in both income received and expenditure against a backdrop of education cutbacks between 2008 and 2009, The University Observer can reveal.
Based on its size, UCD is understood to be the largest university contributor to the IUA, a limited company with seven university presidents as its Board of Directors, in terms of financial contributions.
A representative from the UCD Academic Staff Association said: “I had no idea that the IUA had the type of budget that it has. Everyone I showed those figures to had assumed that the IUA was a relatively small organisation providing some form of secretarial support to the seven presidents.”
The representative added: “What exactly does the IUA do? That’s another question, which is why I was absolutely gob-smacked when I pulled down the numbers…they’re a fig leaf for anything the universities want to do.”
Official documents obtained by The University Observer show that funding received by the IUA rose from just under €3 million to €4,841,846, while expenditure rose from €2,912,894 to €4,517,503 from 2008 to 2009.
The IUA obtained in the region of €1.5 million in funding from the universities over the years 2008-10. A spokesperson for UCD said: “The UCD portion of this funding was €329,223 for 2008, 2009 and 2010.”
The official documents state: “The company is primarily dependent upon the universities for funding.”
A breakdown of figures provided to The University Observer by the IUA Chief Executive show that in 2009 the seven universities contributed €1,555,510 of the €4,841,586 income receivable stated in the documents.
This rise took place during the same period in which universities’ deficits became public and programmes of cutbacks were introduced.
Chief Executive Ned Costello said the work of the IUA includes “specifically sectoral projects involving all of the seven universities”. He stated that other income derives from the HEAR (Higher Education Access Route) and DARE (Disability Access Route to Education) projects and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Innovation.
The company states on its website: “As an organisation in the public domain the action of the company and/or its members are open to public scrutiny… the organisation must be seen to operate on the most appropriate standards of governance, accountability and value for money.”
However, The University Observer understands that because of their status as a limited company, the company is protected from any requests made under the Freedom of Information Act.
General Secretary of the Irish Federation of University Teachers (IFUT), Mike Jennings, said: “As I understand it, the IUA is an association of the presidents of the seven universities in the Republic of Ireland… they don’t have a statutory role. They don’t have a governing board which represents anybody other then the university presidents, as I understand it.”
The official documents also show that the IUA hired two extra administration staff in 2009. During that same period, the Higher Education Authority (HEA) imposed restrictions on hiring staff across the third-level sector, and also instructed universities to make several waves of cutbacks in all academic and non-academic areas. Costello confirmed that their office premises located in Merrion Square is rented but refused to comment on how much it cost per annum.