A senior Trinity College academic and board member has said “draconian strictures” are being imposed on college courses due to budgetary restrictions and staff shortages
Prof Peter Coxon, who is Head of Geography in the country’s highest-ranking university, told students in an email they needed to fight the “erosion” of lecturers’ ability to properly teach classes.
“The School of Natural Sciences, of which Geography is a part, seems to have been placed under draconian strictures which mean it is probable that only core staff pay is now available for departmental budgets,” he said in an email to students this week.
He said the geography department was currently without a chair, as well as academic and technical staff while two other lecturers are set to retire.
He said the staffing shortages meant modules had disappeared from students’ selection forms for the coming academic year.
“The gradual destruction of the degree programme across all of the Geography student cohorts is inevitable with this lack of planning. For a College continuously claiming to have a ‘strategy’ this seems somewhat regressive,” he said describing it as “a ridiculous situation”.
Speaking to the Independent.ie, Prof Coxon, who is also on the college’s finance committee, said he wanted to create awareness of the problems facing third-level students due to “budgetary tightening of degree courses”.
He said many of the staff vacancies were a result of retiring staff taking advantage of the Haddington Road Agreement. However he said many had yet to be replaced.
He added: “We don’t want to just replace people with the same thing, we need to look forward and look after the students. But if those replacements aren’t made in the same area, it causes planning problems and we can’t be strategic about what we do.
“It is erosion of the system. If you’re getting a situation where staff aren’t being replaced it causes problems.
He added that he was very optimistic that the college could overcome the challenges but said it was important students were made aware of the situation.
“We can’t just carry on like nothing has happened. I’m very positive. I think we can come out of this. It could be a very quick turnaround if the economy recovered and we hire the right people who want to work here. We can climb back up the ranking then,” he said.
A spokesperson for the college said: “Regrettably, due to the funding challenges faced by Trinity and the university sector in general, all Schools are currently functioning under difficult circumstances in relation to the replacement of retiring staff.
“Planning is underway to address the gaps caused by any retirements and the Dean of the Faculty is working with the Head of School to plan for the next academic year. Every effort will be made to retain the quality of the degree programmes.”