University College Dublin has sparked controversy by converting 40 student beds into high-end seminar rooms for corporate weekend courses. The university is spending €2.5 million on seminar rooms and new office space for the UCD business school’s professional diploma courses.
Internal university documents show UCD's Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School is looking to double the number of high-end "executive development" courses it offers.
A total of 40 out of the 180 student accommodation beds on the business school's Blackrock campus are being converted into seminar and breakout rooms. Lounge and fine dining facilities are also being developed to cater for those taking the courses.
UCD Students' Union president Conor Viscardi said the work raised questions about the university's priorities at a time when there was a "student accommodation crisis" in south Dublin.
A spokesman for the university said the beds at Blackrock “had reached their end of life” and the college’s new policy was to consolidate “all future undergraduate student on-campus accommodation” on the main Belfield campus.
He said a new 354-bed accommodation block on their main campus and a further 3,000 on-campus places are planned for Belfield.
This will bring the total number of places to more than 6,000, which represents almost a quarter of the total student population.
The internal UCD documents, released under the Freedom of Information Act, show the college believes that converting the accommodation to seminar rooms for the classes “provides a far better financial return” for the college. The documents show the university did not consider refurbishing the rooms. The rooms are due to be completed by September.
The professional diploma programmes are aimed at middle- to high-level corporate management and international business clients. Run over six weekends, they cost between €7,750 and €9,000.
The rent roll from the units was €196,040 a year. It was believed a much higher profit could be made by expanding the college’s corporate development programmes.