The fate of a major College strategy to reduce its staff–student ratio – designed to arrest a series of falls in world university rankings – could be in doubt following Trinity’s decision to freeze all recruitment amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The strategy, costing €29 million, was part of a plan to cut Trinity’s staff–student ratio from 18:1 to 16:1, and was a key part of its five-year strategic plan.
But last week, HR Director Antoinnete Quinn told heads of department that Trinity had frozen all staff recruitment due to the “significant financial consequences” of the coronavirus.
In response to questions from The University Times about whether the plan would halt the College’s academic recruitment drive, Trinity Media Relations Officer Catherine O’Mahony wrote that it was “simply too early to say”.
The email sent by Quinn said that recruitment – including staffing requests – will only be allowed on a case-by-case basis, “where a strong business case can be made”.
All recruitment requests will be reviewed by a subcommittee of the College’s Planning Group, which will then make a decision on whether to allow the recruitment to take place.
“These measures will not affect the Chair roles currently in the recruitment pipeline”, Quinn said.
This newspaper revealed the details of the recruitment drive in January, based on confidential documents presented to Trinity’s College Board in November.
A presentation to Board, delivered by Chief Financial Officer Peter Reynolds, suggested a number of ways that Trinity could pay for the implementation of the strategy – including philanthropy, a new commercial strategy and an increase in non-EU students.
But Reynolds’s report cautioned that “each of these initiatives would require careful evaluation and detailed implementation plans”, adding that “support will be required across the University as a whole to deliver on these initiatives and this goal”.
Increasing the number of non-EU students was set to generate €4 million towards the project, while a growth in philanthropic income could bring in €5 million.
But last month, The University Times revealed that Trinity was preparing for a “significant decrease” in the number of international students it will be able to attract as a result of the coronavirus.
Documents presented to University Council by Senior Lecturer Kevin Mitchell, seen by The University Times, said that the recruitment of international students to undergraduate and postgraduate courses is “already being affected”.
Today, in an op-ed in the Irish Times, Provost Patrick Prendergast wrote that the coronavirus is likely to “almost wipe out” the income universities make from international student fees – which came to €386 million in 2017 – for at least the next two years.
Trinity’s revenues, he added, “could drop by as much as €40 million this year and €80 million next year”.