Budget 2009 – Universities Aim to Protect Frontline Services in Face of Challenging Budget

University Presidents met today to consider the implications of the Budget/Estimates 2009. Speaking after a meeting of the IUA Council, President Dr Hugh Brady said: “while the budgetary decisions will challenge us all, we appreciate the Minister’s efforts to sustain investment in higher education in challenging circumstances”. We look forward to working with the Minister to develop the Higher Education strategy and develop innovative approaches to investment to strengthen our universities in the face of strong international competition”.

The Presidents considered the advice from the Minister to increase the student services charge from €900 to €1,500. IUA Chief Executive Ned Costello said: “having examined the figures, it is evident that the Minister framed his budgetary calculations to take account of the revenue which would flow from this. Even with the increased charge, the 2009 budget represents a cut in core funding in real terms, so without it universities would be faced with an impossible situation.”

The Presidents said that, while the shortfall in provision would require tough choices and clear prioritisation, the focus would be on protecting frontline services and supporting the student experience.  “We will be pushing for cost saving, efficiencies and value for money across the board”, they said. “Our aim is to ensure that students get the best education possible during these difficult times”.

The Presidents noted that the Strategic Innovation Fund has received a substantial cut of 30 percent. However, they recognised that the money being provided would at least allow a number of key priority projects to go forward. “We will discuss with the HEA how we can collectively ensure that this critical change and modernisation programme delivers maximum impact”, they said.

In the research area, the Presidents welcomed the increase announced in capital funding. “We now look forward to the immediate launch of the long overdue next round of PRTLI” said Dr Brady. Outside the immediate education area, the Presidents also welcomed the increase in SFI funding and the decision to increase the R&D Tax Credit to 25%. “We will continue to work very closely with colleagues in these areas to ensure joined up thinking and action across the entire Science and Innovation strategy” they said. “With improvements in research funding it is essential that we now secure a realistic rate for research overheads” they said.

In summing up the meeting Ned Costello said: “the funding situation for universities will continue to be very tight. We need to continue to build our universities to support the higher skills and jobs that will see us emerge strongly from this recession. The universities are committed to this and we will need to see similar commitment and innovative thinking in future budgets to achieve this”.

Ends

For more information contact

Lia O’Sullivan, Communications Manager, IUA, 01 676 4948, lia.osullivan@iua.ie