The leader of Fianna Fáil, Micheál Martin, has called for a new government department, separate from the Department of Education and Skills, to be established with responsibility for higher education and research.
He stated that he believes higher education is losing out in terms of investment to other levels of education under the current arrangements.
Martin was speaking this morning at the “Future of Ireland” event hosted by the Irish Universities Association (IUA), the representative body for Ireland’s universities.
Martin also warned of a “profound funding crisis” in higher education, stating that “investing in the knowledge economy has been the biggest enabler of Ireland’s success”, but that this success is now threatened by a lack of government funding.
The leader of the opposition called for a broadening of research infrastructure to create a system that values the arts, humanities and social sciences rather than focusing on what he described as the “narrow priorities” of only valuing STEM subjects.
Fianna Fáil party policy is to provide an additional €100 million per annum for higher education while maintaining student fees at their current rate with the possibility of introducing a loans system.
Martin reiterated his commitment to this policy this morning.
Also speaking at the event was the IUA’s director-general, Jim Miley, who criticised a 45% drop in funding to Irish universities in the past 10years.
Miley stated: “10 years ago the direct funding to the third level sector was of the order of €9,000 per student, today it’s just over €5,000 per student.”
He added that this was “a very clear indication of the gap that has opened up”, urging government that “if we are to have a university and a third level system that drives the future knowledge economy then we have to invest now and begin to close that gap in funding”.