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Third-level extravagance

The payment of unauthorised allowances of €7.5m to senior academics, the details of which we disclose in today's paper, raises serious questions about the manner in which our universities and other third-level institutions are run.

Between June 2005 and February 2011, 223 academics were paid a total of €7.5m in allowances which had not been authorised by the Higher Education Authority. Yet at the same time they were shovelling out public money in unauthorised allowances, the presidents of our universities were queuing up to tell us how strapped for cash their colleges were.

The payment of the unauthorised allowances has been justified by UCD president Hugh Brady on the grounds that they were "the international norm" and that they were necessary to "persuade" staff to take on leadership and management roles.

Irish academic salaries are more than 30pc higher than those in the UK. The notion that legally banning these unauthorised allowances, as Education Minister Ruairi Quinn is now planning to do, will choke off the flood of suitable applicants for these very well-paid and pensionable jobs is simply absurd.

Mr Quinn should ignore the academics and ban these unauthorised payments without any further delay.

Irish Independent