Hundreds of posts are being created in universities and other third-level institutions this year in a long-awaited move to improve student-staff ratios.
It will help Irish higher-education colleges improve their disappointing placings in global rankings and raise Ireland’s international reputation.
A total of 1,150 jobs are being created – with most of those going to help the student staff ratio. They represent the first easing of employment controls imposed on the sector more than a decade ago, which drove staffing levels below international norms.
There is also funding for specific areas, including 10 more women-only academic leadership roles and the appointment of sexual violence and harassment managers in 17 publicly funded institutions.
About 100 posts will cover the anticipated, annual increase in student numbers, the Irish Independent understands.
The extra jobs arise from the Budget 2023 announcement of €40m to begin addressing a deficit in core third-level funding since the cuts that followed the banking crash.
It was a lot less than the universities had hoped for, but represents a first step towards filling a €307m funding deficit and a new staffing regime.
Further and Higher Education Minister Simon Harris recently conceded that the employment controls were in need of reform and spoke of starting the journey towards reducing student:staff ratios and improving Ireland’s positioning in global rankings.
The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform has agreed the additional recruitment with the Department of Further and Higher Education, allowing the Higher Education Authority to discuss allocations with individual colleges.
High student-staff ratios are blamed for the fall, or stagnation, in placings achieved by Irish universities in international league tables, which, in turn, damage the country’s reputation.
Student-staff ratios are at about 20:1 or more in Irish universities, compared with an international average of about 14 or 15:1.
Ireland’s poor standing in terms of staffing – in the bottom third in Europe – will be outlined at an Irish Universities Association (IUA) seminar in Dublin today.
Irish universities face greater restrictions and lack of flexibility when it comes to staff recruitment, salary determination and promotions than their European counterparts, the seminar will be told.
Ireland is 24th of 35 in the staffing category in an analysis being presented by the European University Association (EUA), known as the EUA Autonomy Scorecard
The restrictions arise from the Employment Control Framework (ECF), imposed by the Government in 2011, which limits overall staffing and prohibits permanent contracts for non-core staff in universities.
The posts now being created will lift the ceiling on the ECF by 1,150 for 2023, while work is also continuing on a new staffing framework to replace the ECF.
At today’s IUA seminar, Professor Kerstin Mey, president of University of Limerick and chair of IUA Council, will say it is essential the restrictive ceilings imposed by the ECF be relaxed or removed.
“The ECF may have served a purpose more than a decade ago as an austerity measure, but it is limiting the capacity to cater for student needs and resulting in an increase in casual or part-time staffing.”