Thursday, 18 May 2017
Department of Education and Skills
Institutes of Technology Funding
118. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if there are cost cutting plans being considered by Waterford Institute of Technology including redundancies, curtailment of campus opening hours and cuts in course contact hours; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23745/17]
122. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the nature of the interaction between the HEA and WIT in addressing a deficit at the institute; the future role of the HEA in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23749/17]
123. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the status of the chair of the governing body of WIT; if it is occupied or vacant; the length of time it has been vacant or occupied; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23750/17]
128. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if the management of WIT is considering cost cutting proposals at WIT to reduce its current deficit; the nature of such cuts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23755/17]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 118 to 129, inclusive, together.
My Department allocates recurrent funding to the Higher Education Authority (HEA) for direct disbursement to the HEA designated higher education institutions, including Institutes of Technology (IoTs) such as Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT). The HEA allocates this funding to the institutions and the internal disbursement of funding is then a matter for the individual institution.
IoTs are autonomous bodies and are responsible for the management of the Institute, including the allocation of all of its income (both public and private) and for the day to day operations of the Institute.
The HEA has been closely monitoring the financial position of all of the IoTs and in particular are working closely with those Institutes operating in deficit to ensure appropriate mechanisms are put in place to eliminate the deficit as quickly as possible.
The Financial Review of the Institutes, published last year by the HEA, was carried out in order to provide an overview of the financial health of the sector, to consider capacity issues and to examine the challenges for the institutions given their respective plans for the future. The report makes a number of recommendations on how some of the issues which contribute to funding problems in the IoT sector can be addressed and my Department is working with the HEA in relation to those recommendations. This includes the establishment of a Working Group in order to consider the recommendations of the report. The report’s recommendations will also feed into the work being currently undertaken by the HEA on developing a sustainable funding model for the sector.
With regard to WIT, they are in year one of a three-year plan, agreed with the HEA, to return the institute to a balanced budget. The plan encompasses a range of activities to address declining student numbers. These include a reinvigorated targeting of the CAO market, focused retention measures and closer enterprise engagement. The HEA are monitoring progress of the three year plan to return WIT to a balanced budget, through quarterly reports, regular meetings and communication with the senior management. In addition, an external financial advisor has been appointed to WIT and he commenced engagement with senior management in February.
In line with normal business practices, I understand that WIT is reviewing its running costs and part of that process involves working through multiple scenarios for optimising resources. Third-level institutions have autonomy in relation to promotion policies and other human resource policies, subject to the requirement to comply with Government policy in respect of employment numbers. Employers in the higher education sector are also required to operate in accordance with the provisions of national industrial relations agreements including the Lansdowne Road Agreement (LRA). In the event that a union believes that an employer in the higher education sector is not acting in accordance with the terms of the LRA, that union can seek to have the matter addressed using the dispute resolution procedures provided for in the Agreement, and any individuals who have issues of dispute have a variety of dispute resolution options open to them.
The appointment of a new chair of the governing body at WIT is currently underway in my Department with the co-operation of the Public Appointments Service. The current chair expressed his wish to resign from the position, however, he is continuing in his role until such time as his replacement has been appointed.