University College Dublin (UCD) has spent several million euro buying premium south Dublin houses neighbouring its Belfield campus in recent years, as part of a long-term plan to expand the university's boundaries.
The university spent €5.5 million buying five properties between January 2017 and last September, according to figures released to The Irish Times under the Freedom of Information Act.
It is understood the spending is part of a long-term plan to buy up residential property along the Clonskeagh Road end of the college to potentially extend the campus boundaries in future, according to several sources familiar with the policy.
UCD has not formally acknowledged the policy for fear of driving up the prices of homes bordering the campus, sources said.
However, the practice was confirmed by several current and former members of the university’s governing authority, as well as a senior estate agent working in the property market near the campus.
When questioned about the recent €5.5 million spent buying property, a UCD spokeswoman said as the “information is commercially sensitive the university cannot comment further”.
UCD bought two adjacent properties on Rosemount Crescent, a small road backing onto the university just off the Clonskeagh Road, last May.
One of those properties was bought for €865,000, according to available figures from the Property Price Register.
The purchase of the two properties was discussed at a May 9th meeting of the UCD governing authority last year, according to confidential minutes seen by The Irish Times.
The university's governing body was told the purchases had been authorised by UCD president Andrew Deeks and had been funded "from the consolidated rental income cash flows from UCD's residential properties".
The spending had been authorised within the “president’s expenditure authority limits,” minutes said.
Following queries on the spending the meeting heard the decision did not have to come to the university’s finance committee for approval as both purchases were individually under €1 million.
Spending of more than €3 million would have to be approved by the governing authority, the meeting heard.
Bidding and buying
One senior estate agent who deals in the area said they understood UCD had been bidding and buying homes along the Clonskeagh Road for at least the last four to five years, and the university would bid marginally over the market rate to secure property.
UCD is the largest third-level institution in the country and its 133 hectare campus has large areas of fields and woodlands, particularly towards the end of the campus bordering the Clonskeagh Road.
Joanna Siewierska, head of the UCD students' union, said the university's decision to spend money buying "premium properties for the purpose of owning land around the campus boundary, and not for the purpose of housing students, makes little sense in the current housing crisis".
The university management were “playing chess with local properties” and spending funds “on some of the most expensive properties in the country,” she said.
At the same time the main campus library was “not fit for purpose,” and the student health and counselling service was “grossly underfunded,” she said.
In recent days UCD decided to increase the rent in on-campus student accommodation by 12 per cent over the next three years, bringing the cost of living in student housing up to as high as almost €10,000 for an academic year.
“None of the above issues are being adequately addressed by the university,” she said which made their increases in student rents and spending on property particularly concerning.
“It is clear that UCD is being ran on a for-profit model, not as a public service,” Ms Siewierska said.