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TU Dublin ‘pauses’ student intake for college courses to help tackle deficit of almost €9m

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Technological University Dublin is to “pause” the intake of students for 15 college courses in the new academic year due to low student numbers and cost-cutting measures.

The university, the second-largest in the State with 25,000 students, is running a deficit of €8.6 million due in part to a drop of about 2,500 in student numbers last year.

Following a review of its course offerings, TU Dublin identified a “considerable number” of continuous low-intake programmes with single-figure student entries, according to university records.

The review concluded that this created a situation where the later years of four-year college courses had “very low” numbers of students.

As a result, these courses “neither delivered on industry skills requirements or on an appropriate students’ experience which is very expensive to deliver”.

While some of these courses have been reconfigured into more general entry programmes, a spokeswoman for TU Dublin confirmed to The Irish Times that others were not achieving sufficient interest from school leavers.

“As TU Dublin is currently seeking to address a budget deficit and restore the university to a sustainable financial footing, we cannot run programmes that are of limited interest to students,” the spokeswoman said, in a statement.

She said the university decided to “pause” school leaver intake on 15 programmes for September 2024 and to “review how we can best meet the future requirements of industry”.

Among the TU Dublin courses listed as “cancelled” in the CAO’s handbook of courses for the 2024/2025 academic year are degrees in design, technology and innovation, sustainable transport management, geospatial surveying, computing (language), retail and services management, culinary entrepreneurship, culinary science, music (audition), languages and international tourism.

When asked whether the pausing of courses would lead to skills gaps in key areas, TU Dublin’s spokeswoman said other programmes – at both undergraduate and postgraduate level – would “continue to educate students in these domains as a core element of their course work”.

“Furthermore, it is our ambition to increase the total number of graduates that we produce for industry in 2024 and beyond,” she said.

The university said some discontinued programmes had been reconfigured into common entry programmes, such as business, to react to the “growing trend of CAO applicants’ preferences for general or common entry programmes”.

She said the university was also offering new courses which sought to meet the demands of a changing market, such as data science and artificial intelligence.

Meanwhile, records released under the Freedom of Information Act show there is “increasing concern” over TU Dublin’s financial management and reporting abilities within the Higher Education Authority (HEA).

Records show that, last month, a senior HEA official noted that a recovery plan for the university was delayed due to the “timeliness of quality of information provided”.

The scale of deficits facing TU Dublin first emerged in July 2023, which prompted the HEA to work with the university to address these issues.

Following mounting concern over the “apparent lack of urgency, responsiveness and conduct” by TU Dublin’s governing body, the HEA used so-called “section 64″ powers last February to request it to undertake a review of its performance in managing and controlling the financial deficit.

TU Dublin recently submitted this review to the HEA for its consideration.

In the meantime, the university said work was continuing on its financial recovery plan to return to financial sustainability, with the assistance of financial services firm Mazars.

Separately, the university recently received sanction to create the role of chief financial officer, which it had been seeking for some time.

It said an interim appointment to the role had been made and an external competition to fill the role on a permanent basis was planned in the coming months.

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