Jim Miley, Director of the Irish Universities Association (IUA) has “warmly welcomed” the support for higher education students included in Budget 2021. However, Miley stated that the government “needs to tackle the funding deficit elephant in the room”.
In a press release, the IUA stated that the provision of €50 million extra supports for students and the confirmation of “ongoing funding” for the extra 5,000 places in higher education next year are “welcome features” of Budget 2021.
The IUA has also welcomed the capital funding under the NDP and an extra €15 million for upgrade works and equipment.
The statement continued: “However, the Budget represents a missed opportunity for real change.”
“The IUA’s proposal to establish a multi-annual Green Campus Infrastructure Fund to upgrade and retro-fit outdated and carbon-negative buildings and facilities would have provided a real impetus to our goal of developing sustainable campuses.”
“Likewise, our calls for the first phase of a PRTLI-type programme to support investment in research infrastructure and technology, as committed in the Programme for Government, would signal a step-change in our research investment.”
A total allocation of €3.3 billion has been given to the Department of Further and Higher Education in Budget 2021, €270 million of which is allocated for “school building projects”.
Commenting on the budget, Jim Miley said: “The universities have clearly shown their capacity to support society during the Covid crisis.”
“They are equally eager to support the National Recovery and the investment measures we proposed would have enabled this to a great extent,” Miley added. “We are fully cognisant of the enormous challenges facing government but we believe that the right investments now in our university system will be a key catalyst to drive the recovery.”
Miley concluded: “Ireland can only make a successful recovery if we invest now in our talent and innovation capacity.”
In their press release, the IUA recognized the “commitment of the government to higher education and research”.
The response of the IUA also commended Harris’ role as Minister for Further and Higher Education, complimenting his “energy and dynamism” in his delivery of a Covid funding package to the sector in July.
“But, the time to address the structural under-funding of the sector is well past,” IUA stated. “While Minister Harris has pledged to ‘settle the funding model’ and address the structural deficits in higher education funding, we believe that a more definitive step could have been taken in this Budget to address the underlying funding deficiencies.”
The association released their budget priorities in August, which called for an increase in the core funding provided through direct grants and support to universities and other third-level institutions by “at least” €117 million.
The report claimed that this would still be “significantly short” of the direct State funding requirement which was identified in the Cassells Report 2016.