Richard Corrigan: DIT graduate

IT is regarded as one of the world's top culinary colleges producing a menu of top chefs from Richard Corrigan to Darina Allen and Michelin starred Kevin Thornton.

But things have turned sour at the Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) when last week, "embarrassed" staff at the celebrated School of Culinary Design refused to attend a college open day.

They say the move came after they were abused by "irate" students let down by mounting funding problems and promised courses that never came to fruition.

According to insiders, morale at the college is at an all-time low, fuelled in particular by the public sector employment freeze and inability to replace staff.

"Last year they promised a number of courses and then they couldn't do it so this year their people said they are not going to go through this again," said a source.

"They got grief from very irate students who couldn't do the courses promised."

The boycotted open day was held in the Aungier St campus last week.

"It [staff morale] is very bad; they are very, very unhappy. There are a lot of things wrong with how things are run," the source said.

"Staff made commitments to them [students] last year and were very embarrassed because they couldn't fulfil those commitments. They should have been there on Tuesday but they said no, we can't go.

"They could fill the school on weeknights and on the weekends with people doing part-time courses but they are empty on the weekend and empty in the evenings."

It is a poor turn of events for a college whose reputation is truly global and whose ability to churn out top-class restaurant talent has been the pride of the Irish culinary community.

In the last year one of its graduates was named Young Chef of the Year in the UK and another won the prestigious Roux Scholarship. The college has also awarded culinary PhDs.

The success is a message the college itself is keen to push. A spokeswoman said that the school "enjoys an excellent reputation in the industry and graduates of the school are at the top of their profession both here in Ireland and internationally.

"The honours degree programme in the school was the first of its kind in Europe."

Despite concerns from staff she said that there has been minimal reduction in front-line numbers and added that there would be no scaling back of full-time provision.

However, the real bone of contention seems to lie with part-time and evening courses and the spokeswoman confirmed that they "are not funded currently by the Higher Education Authority core grant and overall funding decreases mean that DIT may not be in a position to offer the full range of part-time programmes offered previously".