The Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton, and Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Paschal Donohoe, have announced the launch of a new consultation process on a proposed Exchequer-Employer Investment Mechanism, which will operate from 2018 onwards.
Speaking in Dublin Institute of Technology last week, Minister Bruton explained that through the Exchequer-Employer Investment Mechanism, they aim to provide €200m in additional funding for higher and further education.
Both ministers also stated that an increase in the National Training Fund would be considered in order to raise additional funds for higher education and training.
The National Training Fund is a levy on employers, which currently stands at 0.7% and raises about €360 million a year, however only a small fraction of that goes towards higher education.
Minister Bruton went on to explain: “The purpose of [the] consultation is to obtain the views of employers on a proposed funding approach, which will contribute to the sustainable funding of the higher and further education system, alongside exchequer investment and student contributions.”
In a statement, Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) said: “Today the government announced that it is proposing an increase in the National Training Fund, which is the fund that employers pay to fund higher education. The increase will bring €200m per year to fund higher education. This is what Kieran, SU President called for when speaking to the Education Committee in December.” They continued: “We are quite optimistic that our voice was heard, despite others telling us that it was a stupid ask and would never be done. We will be submitting to the consultation process on this. The job is not yet done but we are happy that the employer’s role in funding is being looked at seriously.”
Speaking to Trinity News about the possible increase in funds, TCDSU President Kieran McNulty said: “The National Training Fund being increased is what the SU directly lobbied for in December. In fact, we were the strongest voice for that. That is positive. I am happy that more funding seems to be coming.”
This launch is a follow-up on a commitment made in Budget 2017, which was a response to the Cassells Report that concluded that the current funding for the higher education system was not sufficient. The consultation process aims to address the needs of the economy and growing job sectors in the coming years.
This announcement forms part of the Action Plan for Education, which was launched in September 2016, and aims to make the Irish education and training service the best in Europe by 2026. A number of objectives were outlined in the plan, including an increase of 30% in the number of students from disadvantaged backgrounds attending higher education, and an increase in the number of people doing traineeships and apprenticeships from 5,500 to 14,000.