The provision of €50m extra supports for students and the confirmation of ongoing funding for the extra 5,000 places in higher education in addition to further demographically-driven places next year are welcome features of Budget 2021.
The capital funding under the NDP and an extra €15m for upgrade works and equipment is also welcome. Likewise, the €120m for skills development from the National Training Fund is a boost, albeit that €60m of this is already earmarked for the 5-year HCI Programme that started this year.
However, the Budget represents a missed opportunity for real change. The IUA’s proposal to establish a multi-annual Green Campus Infrastructure Fund to upgrade and retro-fit outdated and carbon-negative buildings and facilities would have provided a real impetus to our goal of developing sustainable campuses. Likewise, our calls for the first phase of a PRTLI-type programme to support investment in research infrastructure and technology, as committed in the Programme for Government, would signal a step-change in our research investment.
Commenting on the Budget, Jim Miley, Director General of the IUA said: “The universities have clearly shown their capacity to support society during the Covid crisis. They are equally eager to support the National Recovery and the investment measures we proposed would have enabled this to a great extent. We are fully cognisant of the enormous challenges facing government but we believe that the right investments now in our university system will be a key catalyst to drive the recovery. Ireland can only make a successful recovery if we invest now in our talent and innovation capacity.”
The IUA recognises the commitment of the government to higher education and research and, in particular, the energy and dynamism of Minister Harris as evidenced by his delivery of a Covid funding package to the sector in July. But, the time to address the structural under-funding of the sector is well past. While Minister Harris has pledged to “settle the funding model” and address the structural deficits in higher education funding, we believe that a more definitive step could have been taken in this Budget to address the underlying funding deficiencies.
More media queries contact: Lia O’Sullivan@iua.ie 085 7141414