The Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, has defended his government’s record on investment in third-level institutions in response to a question about Trinity’s fall in global rankings.
The Taoiseach made his comments yesterday whilst on a visit to the United Nations in New York. When asked about Trinity’s falling position in the rankings, he claimed there has been a “substantial injection of cash into our universities”.
Varadkar added: “There is also a big investment in new campuses and buildings around Ireland, notwithstanding that Irish universities have fallen down the rankings”.
The Taoiseach claimed that “it isn’t just about money, clearly, because funding for universities is up 25% in four years and some universities are down, like Trinity, but some are actually up, like Galway and Maynooth, so it’s not as straightforward as being just about money.”
The Irish Universities Association (IUA) have pointed out that despite these funding increases in recent years, State funding per student has fallen 43% in the last 10 years.
Published earlier this month, the Times Higher Education Rankings placed Trinity in 164th place – down over forty places from last year’s ranking of 120th. Trinity has been on a downward trajectory in the global rankings over the past decade.
College has claimed that this is due to government investment not matching the amount received by rival universities in other countries.
Trinity’s Dean of Research, Professor Linda Doyle stated that while the university’s performance was steady, “this is not good enough in a world that sees many of our global competitors improve their scores through focused and sustained investment by their governments. There is no denying that continuing under-investment in university education and research in Ireland is catching up with us.”
The Director of the IUA Jim Miley has stated: “The requirement for significantly increased investment is now urgent.” The IUA has called for an investment of 377 million euro, which according to them is the minimum that is needed to “fund an increased student intake, address quality and access issues and to meet known cost increases for national pay rounds”.
The editor of THE, Ellie Bothwell, has warned that Trinity’s fluctuating placement on the world rankings may result in Ireland not having any universities in the top 200 next year.
The Taoiseach comments yesterday have dampened hopes of a substantial investment into the third-level education sector in this year’s budget, due to be announced on October 8th.
Minister for Finance Pascal Donoghue has previously stated that in the face of Brexit, the government must make some “very safe decisions” in this years budget. Speaking to the Irish Independent, Fianna Fail education spokesperson Thomas Byrne said that “national exchequer funding, the taxpayer, won’t be a total solution for universities”, echoing similar comments made by the Minister of Education and Skills Joe McHugh.