DCU has spent over €4,247,965 on pandemic-related expenses since March 2020, according to documents released to the College View under the Freedom of Information Act.
One of the biggest sources of spending was €2.42 million during the first 11 months of the pandemic which was invested in upgrading DCU’s IT systems to better facilitate online classes.
In this same period, €127,722 was spent supporting “HSE activities” such as costs associated with the HSE COVID-19 contract tracing call centre, the HSE COVID-19 Clinical Hub and the HSE PCR testing centre on campus for the general public.
From March 2020 to February 2021, the university also spent over €800,000 implementing safety measures such as placing Perspex screens at desks and counter tops around DCU’s campuses to limit virus transmission.
Throughout the entire pandemic, DCU bought 25,000 FFP2 facemasks for a cost of €23,012, C02 sensors for lecture rooms at a cost of over €67,000, and purchased 15 air purifying units for more than €61,000.
Over 7% of DCU’s overall Covid-related expenditure has been spent on antigen tests in the last four months alone.
While the exact number of tests purchased was not disclosed to the College View, an order of exactly €84,000 was received on the 25th of November 2021, with another purchase of exactly €228,000 being recorded on the 14th of January this year.
Items such as blue roll (€2,744) and hand sanitiser (€21,590) were procured, while disinfectant wipes with a value of €11,992 were paid for by a Department of Education provision of PPE and Equipment scheme.
A spokesperson for DCU issued this statement about the expenses:
“Since March 2020 and over the course of the pandemic, Dublin City University’s priority has been the safety of students, staff and visitors. This has been possible thanks to the efforts and cooperation of all. It is this cooperation that enabled DCU to successfully pivot to hybrid teaching and learning during the worst of the pandemic and to return to safe in-person teaching and learning at the beginning of this academic year (2021/22).”
Several notable expenses were aimed at preventing the spread of a biological hazard on campus- not coronavirus, but the bacteria Legionella.
€16,105 was spent taking samples and flushing the bacteria from unoccupied buildings on campus, mainly student accommodation.
Legionella can cause a severe form of pneumonia known as Legionnaires’ disease, and is formed in pipes which are not in regular use.
These works were necessary because the pandemic resulted in “low occupancy of buildings and hence additional preventative treatment for Legionella in buildings water systems was required in accordance with good practice,” according to DCU.
€22,756 was also spent on security patrols around campus, both inside buildings to enforce mask-wearing and outdoors to oversee use of the on-campus tents for outdoor socialising by students till 11pm at night.
Tents on Glasnevin and St. Patrick’s campus which were constructed before Semester One of the current academic year are being rented to DCU at a total cost of €233,516 at the time of writing.
Information contained in the financial documents provided by DCU indicated that these tents were being rented until the end of March.
However a DCU spokesperson confirmed to the College View that the two tents on Glasnevin campus will remain until late April and mid-June respectively.
These costs faced by Irish universities pale in comparison to the amount of revenue lost during the pandemic due to a decrease in international student fees.
A 2020 Oireachtas report titled ‘Financial implications of COVID-19 for Ireland’s university sector’ estimated that shortly before the pandemic almost three quarters of revenue in universities was generated from non-governmental sources, much of which was at risk.
The report also noted that from the projected income loss of €328 million during the 2019/20 and 2020/21 academic years, €160 million of this was estimated to be due to a loss of fees from international students and €135 million related to a loss in commercial revenue.
Over €200 million in Covid-related supports have been announced by the government, however by the beginning of this academic year the country’s eight universities had a combined projected deficit of €40 million for the year.
Jamie Mc Carron
Image Credit: CNBC