The Minister for Higher Education, Mary Mitchell O’Connor visited Trinity on December 27 to announce the allocation of a further €2 million in government funding for both lifelong and flexible learning initiatives within higher education.
The additional funding is being allocated by the Higher Education Authority (HEA) to all of the publicly funded higher education institutions in Ireland and will see an extra €178,532 available for Trinity in 2018.
Announcing the increased funding, Minister Mitchell O’Connor pointed out how important it is to see further progress in this area of education:“The funding I am announcing today rewards those higher education institutions that have made progress in this important policy area. It also signals that this is an area that will be prioritised by my Department in the future”.
“This €2m funding will encourage our higher education institutions to continue to be innovative and supportive in targeting prospective students for whom funding, work or family commitments can often be barriers to study. By widening access in this way this funding will impact positively on individuals, their families, as well as our economy and wider society”.
Flexible learning has already been implemented in certain courses at Trinity over recent years, with schools like ‘The School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Science’ now offering modules with both distance learning options and online educational elements.
The increased focus on flexible and lifelong learning keeps in line with the Government’s ‘National Skills Strategy 2025’ which was published in January 2016. The plan hopes to increase the number of individuals over the age of 25 who are returning to education by 10% over the coming decade.
This additional funding is part of the Irish Government’s reinvestment in higher education, which seen multiple years of emergency cuts following the recession of 2008. The Government’s commitment to increasing funding as the economy continues to recover is evident in the National Budget for 2018, which seen an additional investment package for higher education of €60 million. In total, the level of investment in higher education will be €100 million higher in 2018 compared to 2016.
The National Plan for Equity of Access to Higher Education 2015-2019 contains a number of targets which looks to increase the number of people entering third level education from communities that have been under-represented in higher education until recently, in particular, those living with social disadvantages, mature students, people with disabilities.