According to a report from the Higher Education Authority (HEA), there has been an increase in the percentage of students from underprivileged backgrounds and those with disabilities attending third level institutions despite a cut in funding since 2008. The HEA has been “acutely concerned” about the negative impacts of this cut in funding and has carried out a number of reports to evaluate different aspects of higher education.
This report outlined an increase of students from underprivileged backgrounds from 22% to 26% between 2013 and 2015. There was also an increase from 9% to 11% of students with disabilities attending higher level institutions during this same period. Data released by the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) shows a cut in funding from €1.4bn to €923m since 2008. Within the same time period, Trinity dropped from the 49th to 98th position in QS World rankings. Despite this, the report highlighted continued student satisfaction in regards to learning and teaching.
The Minister for Education, Richard Bruton, published the report carried out by the HEA and praised staff of institutions for a high standard of teaching despite a continued fall in funding. “Today’s results are a testament to the quality of our third level institutions and their staff, who have maintained their high standards of performance and innovation, despite increased student numbers and falling resources.” This year’s government budget saw the first investment of €36.6m made by the government in higher education and €160,000 to be made over the next three years.
With a continued increase of students in institutions from 196,000 in 2011 to 210,000 in 2015 and a worsening student-staff ratio, the investment in third level institutions is needed to maintain the high standard of Irish third level establishments.
The Head of Systems Support for the HEA, Fergal Costello, noted that “the report shows that higher education continues to play a central role in Ireland’s social and economic development.”