Irish universities have lost over €102 million since the beginning of the 2019/2020 academic year due to Covid-19.
A nationwide 35 per cent decline in on-campus accommodation occupancy and an international student deficit as high as 80 per cent for some schools has gutted third level institution funding.
On top of the lack of income, Irish universities have faced the unprecedented cost of transitioning their entire educational platform online.
Representatives from the Irish Universities Association (IUA) have asked the Oireachtas education committee for more funding to sustain Ireland’s third level institutions.
The association also advocated for additional funding to introduce on-campus mental health and well-being centres, as isolation has brought the importance of mental health to the forefront.
DCU did not respond to The College View inquiry about its own financial situation, but in June of 2020, DCU’s International Office had already seen a 15 per cent decline in non-EU student applications, over a month before the application window closed.
Across all undergraduate courses, DCU’s average yearly tuition for an EU student is about €3,000, according to the International Office. However, for non-EU students, it is roughly €15,000, making international students an integral financial pillar for the college.
In the 2019/2020 academic year, DCU made about €44 million from their 14,600 EU students, but made over €34 million from only about 2,300 non-EU students.
With a significant percentage of those international fees likely lost, DCU will have a massive financial hole to fill going forward.
The damage done by the drop off in Irish universities’ funding may stretch beyond DCU, however, and beyond the education industry entirely.
Before Covid-19, Ireland’s seven universities accounted for about €8.9 billion of Ireland’s gross domestic product every year, which is over 2.3 per cent, according to a study by the IUA.
This value is made up of countless factors, ranging from the average long term financial success of graduates to the number of jobs the university creates itself.
However, two of the major contributors to these universities’ massive economic impact are research and development (R&D), and international students. Both are seeing significant declines during the pandemic.
In 2019, university research alone contributed €1.5 billion into the Irish economy. With universities already strapped for cash, many no longer have the resources to pour funding into an extensive research project or the construction of a brand new research centre.
The major issue however, is the nationwide decline in international students studying in Ireland.
International students are one of Ireland’s largest exports. People from other countries pay to be educated in Ireland, and in return, come home smarter, more employable people.
The 2019 IUA report found that international students generate about €386 million in export income for Ireland.
International students pay as much as four-times the tuition price of an Irish student and also often come from wealthier families, meaning they bring additional money to Ireland by funding their lifestyle.
With the nationwide 35 per cent deficit of international students, the Irish economy will be losing out big.
Devin Sean Martin
Image Credit: Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash