Jun 07 2012

Irish University Staff Overpayments

Category: Third LevelTeknovis @ 8:58 pm

The Irish Government’s spending watchdog (the Comptroller and Auditor General) has reported on the staff overspending in Irish Universities, and some of the findings are reported in University staff paid €8.1m in excess of approved rates – Comptroller & Auditor General.

The breakdown is as follows:

However, it is not all good news regarding DCU – it bailed out two of its subsidiary companies. I do not understand why these companies were created as commercial ventures in the first place.

WIT (not a university) also receives criticism:

It cites breaches of spending policy on subsistence and hospitality – including €18,452 spent on flowers and €3,067 on gifts.

Unfortunately, I am not surprised by this :o It is not the first time that WIT has been found misappropriating funds (see How WIT Spends the Taxpayers’ Money). WIT seems to have the worst reputation in Ireland based upon the people whom I have met!

I would like to think that the institutions involved have repaid the money, and that the relevant people have been demoted or fired.

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Sep 06 2011

Irish University Rankings

Category: Third LevelTeknovis @ 2:11 pm

There are new university rankings published this week, and it is bad news for all of the Irish universities. See Most Irish universities fall further in world ranking for details of the Irish situation, and QS World University Rankings 2011/2012, now with fees information for the complete rankings. As an aside, I think the DCU satisfaction at improving four places is seriously over optimistic!

Additionally, as one UCD researcher whom I know said:

I wonder will Des Fitzgerald’s salary be reduced in line with UCDs falling performance.

Personally, I think it is unlikely :| (The background to this comment is in The top 100 best-paid in education.)

Maybe the solution from an Irish point-of-view is to create a good university and a bad university, in the style of the banking solution. Actually, maybe not when it is considered how well the Government have managed that!

So in summary, Irish universities are delivering poor service at exceptionally high costs. Welcome to the knowledge economy – Irish style!

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Sep 05 2011

Michael O’Shaughnessy

Category: PeopleTeknovis @ 7:28 pm

I never knew that an Irishman and UCG graduate, Michael O’Shaughnessy, was involved in naming the Golden Gate Bridge! He was the city engineer in San Francisco at the time!

Cool trivia!

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Aug 25 2011

SFI Funding

Category: Fourth LevelTeknovis @ 6:52 pm

Science Foundation Ireland has announced its latest round of funding, in which 15 million Euro will be distributed to fund 79 different university projects. All of the usual universities are in there. See Robust and competitive research will drive Ireland’s economic development – Sherlock for the details.

To be honest, I find it a bit depressing to see some of the names I first came across over 10 years ago in that list, and these people are still doing basically the same projects. It makes me feel that the world moves on, but academics never change :|

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Apr 25 2011

IRCSET Postdoctoral Fellowship Scheme 2011

Category: Fourth LevelTeknovis @ 8:18 am

IRCSET recently announced the results of the 2011 Postdoctoral Scheme (see IRCSET Postdoctoral Fellowship Schemes 2010/2011). The value of each fellowship is roughly 80,000€ over two years (see Empower).

According to my count there were 37 fellowships awarded this year. These can be broken down by institution as follows:

  • 4 DCU
  • 1 DIAS (Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies – I know very little about this institution!)
  • 1 DIT
  • 6 UCG
  • 10 TCD
  • 1 UL
  • 3 UCC
  • 11 UCD

Clearly TCD and UCD are doing something right because they account for more than half of the successful applicants!

The fellowships can also be broken down by category, although these results are more evenly distributed:

  • 4 Biological Sciences A
  • 6 Biological Sciences B
  • 7 Chemistry
  • 2 Computer Science
  • 4 Earth and Environmental Science
  • 6 Engineering
  • 2 Mathematics
  • 6 Physics

It is also interesting to note how many of the names do not sound Irish!

Overall, I do not think that these fellowships represent good value for the tax payer! I say this, because I know some of the people who have successfully applied for this fellowship. In all cases, it is seen as a way to continue a career as an academic. Furthermore, the people I have known had or have no intention of remaining in Ireland or working in industry. In other words, these people want to become academics for the sake of becoming academics, and their contribution to the country will be minimal.

If it were up to me, I would fund more PhD students who then go on to work in industry!

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Nov 11 2010

How DERI Spends the Taxpayers’ Money

Category: Fourth LevelTeknovis @ 8:25 pm

Earlier this week I wrote about the huge, and unwarranted, costs of certain staff in Top Educational Salaries in Ireland. So today I decided to stay with expenditure in Irish education, and write about something that has really been annoying me for the last two weeks.

Somebody told me about an article describing how a UCG research group called DERI has been spending the tax payers’ money that was given to them by Science Foundation Ireland. The article is very revealing, and it can be read online: Tighter Controls at NUIG Research Institute Following Expenses Controversy.

I will quote some of the more astonishing revelations…

Tighter controls have been implemented at a research institute at NUIGalway after a hundred thousand euro was spent to hire private jets. The private flights were for researchers and academics at the Digital Enterprise Research Institute, DERI, at NUIG, in 2004.

The wastage continues…

Other expenses incurred include 154 thousand euro to send dozens of DERI staff to a luxury resort in Crete for conferences.

Shame on you both UCG and DERI for your pathetic self-interest at the cost of everybody else.

So what is the outcome of all of this?

Current DERI Chief Executive, Michael Turley, says policies have been tightened since those expenses were incurred.

What is wrong with this country? Why have those involved in this embezzlement, and those who were supposed to be overseeing it, not being charged with criminal activity? How come they have not been fired? Is it to much to ask that they be forced to pay it back? Even a public apology to the taxpayers whose money was squandered would be a start. Is policy tightening really the best outcome to this? It stinks!

It is sad, because the dishonesty of one group, and the incompetence of its university, will generate a negative impression regarding all of the research groups and universities in Ireland. I certainly would be ashamed to be associated with such a shambolic research group.

I also think that Science Foundation Ireland must share some of the blame here. At the minimum, it should immediately suspend all payments to UCG, until this money is repaid.

I also wonder should the spending of other similar research groups be scrutinised more closely?

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