Senior manager questions rebrand decision at GMIT as deficit mounts

GMIT's Galway campus

The College of Tourism and Arts at GMIT has a deficit of €2.3 million that is “getting worse”, staff have been told.

The financial plight of that particular wing of the college was laid bare at a meeting of around 40 staff that was addressed by Jim Fennell, GMIT financial Controller, and Cáit Noone, Head of the College of Tourism and Arts.

Some €800,000 of the €2.3 deficit related to the art and design section of the school at its Cluain Mhuire campus, the meeting heard.

It was explained that student enrolment was at around 600 but that particular part of the college had capacity for roughly 1,000 students.

The college was “losing market share since 2013”, Mr Fennell said.

Hotel and catering management was one of the original degree courses offered at GMIT in the 1970s, when it was known as an RTC (Regional Technical College); and it became synonymous with excellence in hotel and catering.

However, Mr Fennell told the meeting that it was a “mistake” to rebrand the GMIT Hotel and Catering School – a well-known brand – into the College of Tourism and Arts or CTA for short.

Mr Fennell mentioned that there were 30 administrative staff working within the CTA.

Though it was not explicitly said at the meeting, some staff took it as an indication that retiring admin staff will not be replaced, or may be moved to other departments.

Staff are to be divided into ‘working groups’ to see if they can come up with ways of reducing the deficit, the meeting was told.

“It’s typical, management mess it up, and they come looking to staff for solutions, to spread the load,” said one senior employee based at the Dublin Road campus.

Earlier this year, the Galway City Tribune revealed the contents of a report, which questioned the future economic viability of GMIT.

Michael O’Connell – a former financial controller at Limerick IT, when he was a colleague of Dr Fergal Barry, GMIT President – compiled the report that recommended cost reductions and income generation totalling €5 million for 2015-2020. The report called into question the future sustainability of the institute, and warned that drastic cutbacks are necessary to arrest the perilous financial decline faced by GMIT.

In May, Dr Barry said the college was implementing an action plan to correct their finances.

“As a result, GMIT’s deficit will be less than €1m at the end of this academic year (2016/2017) and the Institute will be returning to surplus on the September 1, 2017 for the Academic Year 2017/2018.

“GMIT will be using its considerable reserves to support the implementation of its academic plan. To date planned staffing level reductions have been and continue to be achieved through non-replacement of retirements and the reassignment of staff to areas of growth,” he said.