The Irish Universities Association (IUA) welcomes the approval by Government of a plan to further invest in third-level education by addressing the persistent and material funding shortfall.
The clear acknowledgement by Government that the sector is currently underfunded by €307m per year represents an important milestone. The IUA commends the Minister and the government for their explicit commitment to address the core funding deficit in the sector and to address the cost of education to students. This should include measures to provide wider access to third-level and to address barriers including the cost of student accommodation.
It is notable that the Government has responded to the calls from the sector, led by IUA, to directly address the student-staff ratios in our colleges through the funding plan. This is imperative in order to maintain and enhance the quality of Irish third-level education in a highly competitive international environment. If this is to be effective, it is also essential that the Government removes the restrictions on hiring staff under the Employment Control Framework. There is absolutely no point in the Government providing extra funding if our universities are prevented from hiring full-time staff due to the ECF ceiling.
Welcoming the funding plan, Jim Miley, Director General of the IUA said:
“Despite the long wait of almost six years since the Cassells Report, it is heartening that Government has finally agreed a plan to address the persistent deficit in funding higher education. For the first time, there is now a definitive recognition of the reality of the investment needs to underpin quality and enable our universities to continue to produce world-class graduates. However, today’s announcement will mean nothing if the Government fails to follow through on this policy commitment with a significant first tranche of investment in Budget 2023 and a removal of the embargo on hiring permanent staff under the Employment Control Framework.”
The IUA calls for an immediate spend-down of the €1 billion surplus in the National Training Fund as part of the solution to close the funding gap. The NTF funds have been contributed by employers to invest in education and training to help create the talent and skills needs for the country.
We note that the funding gap identified by government does not include the additional costs that will arise in future years from public sector salary increases and the cost of enrolling additional students due to demographic pressures which could see a further 20% increase in student numbers by 2030. It is imperative, therefore, that the current gap is closed within two years so that those additional costs can be catered for in future years.
We look forward to the implementation of the plan and to the writing of a new chapter in third-level education to enable the next generation of our students to get the best possible education in a globally competitive environment.
For press queries contact Lia O’Sullivan, Head of Communications, IUA 085 7141414