IFUT calls government to combat higher education funding crisis

Minister for Education Richard Bruton was criticised for proposed reform plan.

Photo by Joe McCallion / Trinity News

The Irish Federation of University Teachers (IFUT) has requested the government to construct an inclusive plan for the improvement of third level education. In a statement, the IFUT criticised the announcement made by Minister for Education Richard Bruton that financial penalties would be incurred by institutions for the filing of late accounts, or giving misleading reports to the government.

In a press release, Joan Donegan, IFUT General Secretary, stated that “these are very specific measures that, appropriate or otherwise in themselves, do nothing to address the funding crisis that dominates the entire third level education sector”.

Donegan said: “We must not allow a ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’ approach for the patchwork announcements.” Donegan furthered this comment by saying that the government should tackle the problems identified by the Cassells Report and address why the Oireachtas Committee on Education report is still not published.

Donegan continued to address the issue associated with increasingly competitive funding for higher education. This “will accentuate the imbalance that has been developing in third-level education and overemphasizes a ‘training’ attitude toward the role of universities,” she said.

Previously, IFUT presented a plan to allocate a fixed percentage of Corporation Tax for the purpose of funding for higher education. Currently, IFUT maintains that a group combining the Department of Finance, Revenue, and all parties associated with the third-level sector be created to execute this policy.

On January 15, Bruton and Minister for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O’Connor released both the review for the Allocation Model for Funding Higher Education Institutions and the Higher Education System Performance Framework for 2018-2020. The reports mark the first time in nearly a decade that the government has reviewed funding allocations to third level institutions.

The report noted several changes that will be made to funding allocations at universities. One of these, is that universities who offer more STEM courses will receive more funding. In addition, institutions who break government policies will incur financial penalties.

The reports did not mention the Cassells report. The report, published in 2016, outlined three funding options for funding third level education. They included an increase in state-funding with payment from students through income-contingent loan schemes, a mostly state-funded system, or an increase in state-funding with student fees.

Although a spokesperson for the Department of Education stated that the government will be investing €100 million more in 2018 than 2016, Bruton and the government have yet to make a decision on a funding model to higher education.

Caroline Boyle

Caroline Boyle is a current Deputy News Editor of Trinity News. She is a Senior Fresh BESS student, and a former Senior Reporter.