€3.7 billion has been allocated to students, universities and young people in Budget 2022.
€68 million will fund an additional 3,320 CAO places.
In a press release today, the Irish Universities Association (IUA) say the investment is “welcome [but] not sufficient to address the core funding deficit in the sector”.
According to the IUA: “A large proportion of the remaining funds for the sector will be absorbed by ‘stand still’ funding requirements and a contribution to long-standing pension deficits.”
While the IUA agrees with the Government’s statement that “investment in education and research is an investment in our future”, and welcomes the provision of €200m to strengthen the financial position of universities, they said that “[the funding] will not provide any extra investment in teaching and/or research activities in 2022”.
According to the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Innovation and Research, Simon Harris, “between now and the end of 2022 [the Government] will allocate €200 million to strengthen the financial position of universities and provide capacity for extra students”.
The student maintenance grant (SUSI) has been increased by €200, a rise not seen since 2012.
The threshold for eligibility has been increased by €1000, and qualifying distance reduced from 45km to 30km.
Minister Harris stated that these changes to SUSI “will mean a big increase in grants for some from the next college year”.
Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU)’s President Leah Keogh “welcomes” the changes “in line with TCDSU’s submission to the SUSI review”.
€34 million has been allocated to apprenticeships.
The €200 contribution fee for post-Leaving Certificate courses (PLC) has been abolished, and 20,000 new further education and training places are to be created. Which Keogh says is “not good enough”.
Posted on Twitter, Keogh said: “€250 fee for PLCs to be abolished. Otherwise, another year, another budget that allows Irish students [to] pay the highest fees in the European Union.”
Concerning the travel, art, culture and tourism industry, there will be a New Youth Travel Card, which will offer a 50% discount to those aged between 19 and 23 across the transport network.
Other changes include contraception becoming free for young women aged 17-25, and the minimum wage increased by 30c to €10.50 per hour of work.
Minister Harris stated that his department “are committed to investing in the future and the sustainability of higher education” and “have really significant teaching, learning, research and development capacity in education institutions that can make a big difference in people’s lives”.
To which the IUA say they are “still awaiting the report on future investment received by the Minister some months ago to be brought to government” and “are disappointed that it is not included in this Budget.”
IUA Chair and President of National University of Ireland Galway (NUI Galway), Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh said the Government “should be doubling down on its investment in talent and in research and innovation to ensure the future of a good society and the growth of the economy which supports it”.
He continued: “It is very disappointing that investment in research and innovation, acknowledged to be well behind our key competitors, has not been prioritised today.” He noted that “a substantial part of the now decade-long shortfall in investment remains”.
“If we are serious about being globally competitive in terms of talent and research, such investment is now critical for so many areas of society, including research in health, housing and climate change.”
According to IUA’s chair, the group “hope that the government will address this investment directly in the near future when it considers the future funding report on the sector”.
“Our universities understand the overall Budgetary challenges faced by the government but believe that this Budget is a missed opportunity to invest in the future talent for the country represented by the next generation” : O’hÓgartaigh said.
The Union of Students’ in Ireland (USI) have said that the Budget has a “lack of ambition and change for students” and Government “has no interest in addressing the hardship that many students face”.
In a press release today, the USI have called Budget 2022 “disappointing” since there is no reduction in the Student Contribution Charge and “no significant announcement on student accommodation or plan to publicly fund third-level education”.
“Even the changes to the SUSI Student Maintenance Grant, which are welcome, are the least that is needed considering there has been no change to the grant since it was slashed in 2011.” : USI said.
The Student Maintenance Grant “has become inadequate and not fit-for-purpose” according to the Union.
USI President, Clare Austick said: “USI has highlighted time and time again that students need to see the end of the €3,000 Student Contribution Charge and a plan made to implement a publicly-funded system of third-level education.”
She continued: “In our Pre-Budget Submission, USI outlined that we wanted to see a three-year plan for the abolishing of fees, with a €1,000 reduction made this year and the same again in the next two budgets.”
On the subject of the lack of student accommodation, Austick said: “Places in third-level institutions have been increased by 3,300 without any action on student accommodation, so we have no idea where these students will live; they will most likely be added to the waiting lists for student accommodation.”
“We are glad there has been some increase to the SUSI maintenance Grant, as there is a long way to go to get us back to the grant being in line with the cost of living” she continued. She noted that “it was cut in 2011 and this is the first time it has increased since then”.
USI welcome the €5 million funding for student mental health and wellbeing services.
According to Austick, it is “vital” to address the mental health difficulties faced by students that have “worsened as a result of the pandemic”.
USI also welcome the announcement of €31 million to provide free contraception for women between the ages of 17 and 25.
“However, there needs to be clarity that this health package will be accessible and will be available to trans and non-binary people.”: Austick continued.
Last year’s budget saw €3.3 billion allocated for third level education, with €270 million given to the higher education and further education sector for “school building projects”.
Minister of State for Skills and Further Education, Niall Collins, offered a once-off hardship fund of €50 million for third level students who were financially hit by Covid-19.
Minister Harris announced a full review of the SUSI student support grants, promised to be completed by summer 2021. The SUSI budget for 2021 was also promised to be increased by €20 million to meet the additional demands of financial difficulties caused by Covid-19.
Postgraduate support was increased from €2,000 to €3,500 and the threshold for the grant was increased to €54,240 from €31,500.
Funding in the PATH 2 programme was increased to provide 200 extra places in the sector.
Government also announced €29 million investment in research funding last year.