Trinity’s staff recruitment freeze – implemented as a result of the pandemic – looks likely to continue for the foreseeable future, among a series of biting cutbacks that will see College attempt to save €30 million in day-to-day costs over the next 18 months.
College is targeting a 10 per cent reduction in its operating expenses – including, as well as the recruitment freeze, cutbacks in its procurement policies – to “help close the financial gap” brought about by the pandemic.
Extracts from a confidential document delivered at College Board last Wednesday – obtained by The University Times – show Trinity is also considering a review of promotions in order to cut back on its operating costs in the immediate future.
The recruitment freeze – introduced in April due to the “significant financial consequences” of the coronavirus – could affect more than 300 full-time positions, according to the presentation, delivered by Trinity’s newly formed Emergency Financial Management Group.
Trinity has not said how long it intends to extend the freeze for, but the presentation suggests it’s a key part of the money-saving measures College is undertaking in the coming 18 months.
Trinity declined to comment on the matter when contacted by The University Times.
To make savings in sourcing and purchasing goods and services, College is aiming for a 10 per cent reduction in supplier costs, and will focus on making cutbacks in areas like travel and recruitment.
Trinity will also put contract renewals under the microscope, as part of a set of measures the document says will present a “significant challenge” to the College.
But the Emergency Financial Management Group also said that “there are a number of key initiatives already in place”.
College is also looking to slash its capital expenditure by €20 million over the next 18 months through a series of budget cuts that could delay completion of its flagship Engineering, Environment and Emerging Technologies (E3) Institute and see its Law School project deferred until 2023.
Yesterday, The University Times reported that College could run out of cash by September 2021 unless a slew of mitigating measures – including cutbacks in operational and capital expenditure, and lower barriers to entry for non-EU students – are put in place.
In the worst-case scenario, the impact of the coronavirus could lead to Trinity’s unrestricted cash – the amount of money College has to spend that is not tied to a specific usage – plummet into the red by the summer of 2021.
The government has warned higher education institutes it will not cover revenue losses – totalling around €500 million – experienced by the sector as a result of the pandemic.
Officials in the Department of Education have signalled support for extreme cases, in which cash flow problems are serious enough to threaten the viability of a university.
Apart from this, however, higher education institutions will be told to fend for themselves financially, through their own reserves or other financial mechanisms available to them, according to correspondence between the department and the Higher Education Authority revealed by the Irish Independent.
Among the financial blows it will take due to the virus, Trinity is set to lose out on up to €40 million in commercial revenue this year alone, due to the serious impact that the pandemic has had on many of College’s money-making avenues.
The Book of Kells, which brings in around €12 million a year to the college, has been closed since March 11th.
Trinity and other Irish colleges are also anticipating a significant drop in the number of international students coming to Ireland, which will result in a major financial loss in fees.
Jim Miley, the director general of the Irish Universities Association (IUA), told RTÉ Radio 1 last month that Irish universities could lose out on up to €200 million in international student revenue next year.
It is expected that the number of first-year international students will fall by 80 per cent, Miley said.
He said universities hope the loss of international student revenue “will be temporary – that we will recover this critical business in two to three years”.
In the meantime, though, the fall represents a “massive blow”, he said.