Trinity and UCD step up links

 

IN AN unprecedented move, UCD and Trinity have been holding secret talks on much closer co- operation on major research projects.

The move, which has drawn a furious reaction from the other universities, is said to involve the Department of the Taoiseach and senior figures in the Department of Education.

It comes as the seven universities prepare to pitch for some €300 million in research funding before a deadline set for early next month. Sources in the other universities accuse the two Dublin colleges of “breaking rank”.

There were unconfirmed reports last night that Taoiseach Brian Cowen, Minister for Education Batt O’Keeffe, Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan and senior figures from the Higher Education Authority held a secret meeting with UCD president Dr Hugh Brady and TCD provost Dr John Hegarty in recent weeks.

Last night UCC president Dr Michael Murphy said he would be appalled if the Government intended supporting the two Dublin universities at the expense of other colleges. He said it should not abandon the more unified approach which had worked so well for the third-level sector.

It is known that the secret moves have been encouraged by senior Government officials. TCD and UCD are the only Irish universities ranked in the world top 200, but other universities – notably UCC – can rival their success in securing research funding.

Last month, university presidents were briefed by Paddy Teahon, a former secretary general at the Department of the Taoiseach, on government plans for much closer alliances and even mergers between colleges.

Mr Teahon is chairman of the Irish University Association, the representative group for the seven university presidents.

The group representing all university presidents on the island, Universities Ireland, is meeting today, but the meeting is likely to be dominated by sharp exchanges between the presidents. Both Dr Brady and Dr Hegarty are expected to attend.

Sources at UCD and Trinity have defended the joint move. They say they will be developing large-scale innovative projects that could help national recovery.

Sources in other universities expressed concern that the joint bid by the two Dublin colleges could see other colleges losing out.