The Irish Universities Association (IUA), have described the Budget 2020 provisions for higher education as “understandable, but inadequate”.
In yesterday’s budget statement, Minister of Finance Paschal Donohue announced the provision of €19 million for the rising student numbers in the following years, as well as €74 million additional funding for higher education, funded by a 0.1% increase in the National Training Fund levy. Donohue also reiterated a pledge for an extra investment of €60 million as part of the Human Capital Initiative.
In a press statement The IUA said that it “acknowledges and welcomes these provisions” and “understand this cautious approach to the Budget by the government in the context of the considerable uncertainty arising from Brexit.” However, the IUA claim that the provisions are insufficient, as the budget “does not address the growing gap in core funding of our third level system”.
They claim that much of the €74 million provided is “for specific purposes and does not help close the gap in core funding”. Such a shortfall will, they argue, widen Irish institutions’ student teacher ratio, which is already one of the highest in Europe.
The IUA argues that the implications of a lack of funding can be detrimental for our education system. They claim that the effects will include Ireland becoming less competitive, Irish institutions slipping down further in international rankings, and employers seeking to locate elsewhere to find a better qualified workforce. They claim that “all of this has a negative knock-on impact on the Exchequer.”
The IUA are adamant that this issue surrounding our higher education systems will not be solved easily. Thus, they argue that “it is essential that the government faces up to the facts and the associated implications, and to deliver a strategy and a funding regime to solve it,” to avoid future economic failure for our country.
Yesterday’s budget was also criticised by the Union of Students’ in Ireland (USI) and the Irish Federation of University Teachers (IFUT).
Lorna Fitzpatrick, the president of USI, reacted to the Budget announcement in a statement to Trinity News, saying that her union is “extremely disappointed” with Budget 2020 in terms of higher education funding and student support. She added that “ Students have been forgotten about in Budget 2020 in terms of support. We have the second-highest fees in Europe, following Brexit, we will have the highest fees, SUSI grants were cut in 2011 and 2012 and no real investment has been made since.”
Frank Jones, Deputy General Secretary of IFUT also commented yesterday that “the failure again in today’s Budget to address the funding crisis in higher education highlights a continued policy paralysis in government on the sector, that threatens to undermine our universities and the education of tens of thousands of students countrywide”