Cautious budgetary approach understandable but inadequate

Growing funding crisis in universities is sowing the seeds of economic failure for Ireland

Call for more funds from the National training Fund to be used in higher education

The IUA welcomes the Budget provisions for higher education for known increases in student numbers in 2020 and pay provisions under national wage agreements. We understand this cautious approach to the Budget by the government in the context of the considerable uncertainty arising from Brexit. However, it must be recognised that the Budget does not address the growing gap in core funding of our third level system.

While this budgetary strategy was well flagged, it is still disappointing as the widely accepted funding crisis in our universities is sowing the seeds of future failure for Ireland, as we compete in a post-Brexit Europe.

We acknowledge the provision of €19m for extra student numbers and the previously announced €60m Human Capital Initiative Fund. Much of the additional €74m in the Higher Education Budget is for specific purposes and does not help to close the gap in core funding.  Core funding shortfalls means that the student teacher ratio, already one of the highest in Europe, will deteriorate in our universities as the numbers of students increase due to the inevitable democratic bulge.

It is notable that the €74m special purposes fund and the €60m HCI Fund are drawn from the National Training Fund created from employers’ levies. But, on top of this, there are unspent reserves of in excess of €500m remaining in the NTF. More of these reserves must now be used to fund the higher education deficit.

The implications of failure to address this issue are stark. Upcoming generations of students will be short changed. Ireland risks becoming less competitive. Ireland’s universities continue to slip down the international rankings. Employers may seek to locate elsewhere in Europe where suitably qualified talent is available. All of this has a negative knock-on impact on the Exchequer.

Independent research confirms that every Euro invested in our universities creates almost €9 in return to the economy.   If we want to future proof our society and economy, there is no better investment than in third level education.

The uncertainty relating to Brexit has inhibited the government’s hand in this budget. However, this third level funding issue is not going away. It is essential that the government faces up to the facts and the associated implications and to deliver a strategy and a funding regime to resolve it.


For media queries please contact:

Lia O’Sullivan, Head of Communications, Irish Universities Association; +353 (0)1 676 4948 I Direct: +353 (0)85 7141414