Waterford Institute of Technology, which is one of the city’s biggest employers with over 1,000 full and part-time staff, is introducing “a range of revenue-generating and cost-cutting measures” in response to a reduction in State funding.

It was reported last month that hundreds of jobs are set to be lost across the third-level sector as part of Higher Education Authority plans to merge courses and close a number of small college departments.

The organisation representing university teachers, the IFU, has already said compulsory redundancies arising from any rationalisation process will not be acceptable.

However, with a view to taking its own proactive steps in light of the straightened financial projections for 2009 – which could well be further hit by next Tuesday’s emergency budget – a WIT spokesman confirmed: “We have examined all aspects of our operations to identify additional income opportunities and expenditure reductions in response to the strained public finances… so that a balanced budget can be achieved in line with HEA requirements.”

He added: “We are committed to taking the measures required to ensure the ongoing sound financial management of the Institute. This will allow us continue to provide adequate resources for core activities without falling in to a deficit situation that would ultimately require more radical interventions.”

Such “timely remedial action” is being based on the recommendations of an independently-chaired taskforce which WIT commissioned to conduct a comprehensive analysis of revenue-raising and expenditure-reducing proposals.

‘Social responsibility’

Given that “considerable adjustments” are required across the entire public sector, and the Institute’s responsibility “to continue contributing comprehensively to developing the ‘smart economy'”, the final package of measures, which, it’s emphasised, must be agreed quickly, “will seek to safeguard key areas of activity that meet our regional and national remit.”

While “redundancies are not currently being examined… it is not possible at this time to guarantee that all of the Institute’s current range of activities will be maintained,” the spokesman said, adding that “efficiencies will be introduced to allow voluntary early retirements and non-replacement of departing personnel.”

All initiatives will be discussed with employees, he stressed, saying “an area with particular potential is driving efficiencies that would allow greater numbers of students participate in our high-demand programmes from 2009-’10 onwards.

“This would increase our revenues while also helping meet the demand for places at the Institute which remains buoyant” and also fulfil “the social responsibility on us during the recession to provide the widest possible access to higher education.”

With ‘internal communications’ continuing, the WIT spokesman said “it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time on any specific proposals” – other than to say “we have to manage our finances very astutely in the current economic climate and demonstrate a far greater degree of flexibility to meet the requirements of an ever-changing market.

“In doing this, we are weighing a wide range of factors before reaching final decisions in consultation with the wider Institute community. Through this, the Institute’s commitment to higher education excellence and driving research, development and innovation remains steadfast.”