Minister for Finance Pascal Donoghue, has announced that 16.6% of Budget 2018, amounting to €10 billion, will be allocated to education. This represents a €47.5m increase in funding.
Donoghue said: “Continued state investment in higher education in the years to come will help safeguard our economic growth in the coming years.” Following his announcement, Donoghue also said that education is “the bedrock of society”.
A student loan scheme has not been introduced. This follows calls by the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) for the government to increase funding in third level education with a decrease in the student contribution charge.
In September, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar dismissed ideas that a British or American style loan-scheme would be introduced. Varadkar has said however, that students should “make a contribution” towards their education. This comes after universities called for an increase of €350m in funding this year.
On October 4, over 5,000 students marched with the USI for a timeframe for funding in third-level institutions to be developed. The USI urged the government to eliminate the possibility of the introduction of income-contingent loan schemes in Budget 2018 as well as a reduction of the Student Contribution Charge by at least €250. The union was also looking for increased funding in the Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI) grant, following cuts in grants in 2011 and 2012.
Prior to the Budget announcement, Fianna Fáil had sought an increase in taxes for employers to fund education. In lieu of a further €100 million needed to fund education in this budget, the party proposed an increase in the employer tax from 0.7% to 0.8%.
Through a 0.1% increase in the National Training Funding levy, a further €66 million would be generated to fund third-level education. The party proposed that a further €44 million would be funded by the Exchequer this year.