Covid impact sees Trinity College report deficit of €25.6m

Shortfall marks major reversal in university’s financial position

Total income at TCD dropped by €7.6 million to €389.1 million. Photograph: iStock

Total income at TCD dropped by €7.6 million to €389.1 million. Photograph: iStock


Covid-19 has led to Trinity College Dublin reporting a deficit of €25.6 million for the 2019/20 financial year despite an increase in income from State grants and academic fees. The shortfall marks a major reversal in the university’s financial position.

The latest financial statement published by the university shows it has recorded a deficit for the first time in three years after posting a surplus of €5.7 million in 2018/19 and €0.9 million the previous year.

Total income at TCD dropped by €7.6 million to €389.1 million – a reduction of 0.9 per cent on 2018/19 revenue – although academic fees generated an extra €10.6 million to €163.7 million on the back of student numbers growing by 2.9 per cent to 18,941.

Non-EU students now comprise 17 per cent of all students on the TCD campus.

TCD’s chief financial officer, Peter Reynolds, said the overall reduction in income reflected the significant impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the college’s non-exchequer revenue streams.

State grants were also up slightly to a five-year high of €50.5 million, while donations and endowments increased by €7.3 million to €27.8 million.

However, the value of research grants and contracts decreased by €2.1 million to €99.3 million, while there was a reduction of almost €23 million in “other income” which Mr Reynolds said was driven mainly by the impact of Covid-19 on Trinity’s commercial revenues.

The accounts show Trinity suffered losses of €6.3 million on investments in the latest financial year compared to a gain of €12.2 million in 2018/19. The college attributed the decline to market volatility related to the pandemic.

Total expenditure by the university decreased by €2.5 million to €380.5 million notwithstanding staff costs rising by €8.2 million to €297.9 million as a result of accelerated pay restoration under the Lansdowne Road Agreement and now accounting for almost 72 per cent of total income.

Capital projects

The accounts show Trinity spent €67.3 million on capital projects in 2019/20, including €39.3 million on strategic property acquisitions which drew down €21.5 million in loans to finance.

“The scale of investment demonstrates a continued commitment to build a world leading campus for our students and staff and future development plans continue to prioritise targeted growth in these areas,” said Mr Reynolds.

Spending on capital projects saw the university’s cash balances shrink by €56.6 million over the year to €140.1 million.

Mr Reynolds said the value of new awards at €119 million secured last year – down from €155 million in 2018/19 – had been affected by the limited availability of research calls by Science Foundation Ireland.

Mr Reynolds warned that significant additional funding would be required from the Government to address a shortfall in public funding for third-level education.

“Exchequer income has declined from 70 per cent of the university’s total income in 2008 to 39 per cent in 2020 and the financial outlook for the university will continue to remain uncertain unless the Government commits to long-term funding or lifts the cap on undergraduate fees,” he said.

The latest accounts also reveal that Trinity is in dispute with its main works contractor with a series of claims and counterclaims that have gone to arbitration.

The figures show 32 staff at TCD were on salaries in excess of €200,000 in 2019/20 with the top earner on a salary of over €430,000.

Outgoing TCD provost, Dr Patrick Prendergast received a salary of €209,119 last year.