Fears that €307m higher ed funding gap will not be addressed as Budget 2024 looms

Concerns have been raised by Provost Linda Doyle, the IUA and the PWO in relation to the lack of funding to be allocated to colleges in the Budget

Provost Linda Doyle has called on the college community to “raise our voices” amid fears that the higher-education sector will not get additional €307 million in promised core funding in Budget 2024.

In a college-wide email earlier this week, Doyle urged students and staff to contact their public representatives to address the “chronic underfunding” of universities in the upcoming budget.

“We are often told by politicians that they do not hear about this issue ‘on the doorsteps’. This must change. Even if you do not have a vote, your voice matters so please make your voice heard.”

This follows a letter written to the government by The Irish Universities Association (IUA) on September 19 which sought “collective and urgent action” from the government on their funding into higher education.

In May 2022, a core funding deficit of €307 million was identified by government, which it promised to address “over a number of years through annual budgetary processes”.

Just €40 million in additional funding was provided in Budget 2023, which the IUA says “has largely been eaten up by the shortage in funding for national pay awards in 2022 and 2023”.

Doyle was among 15 university presidents and chairs of governing authorities to sign the IUA’s letter demanding that the government follow through with this promised funding.

In her statement Provost Linda Doyle said: “It has become absolutely clear that additional pressure must be brought to bear if this Government is to ever realise its promise of delivering this additional €307 million annually.”

“Another budget cannot be allowed to come and go without meaningful improvement for our sector on core funding. Core funding is absolutely essential to delivering the conditions that will allow us to achieve our ambitions.”

She highlighted some key points to remember when liaising with these representatives such as how the OECD and European University Association (EUA) Public Funding Observatory Report for 2020/2021 show that higher education in Ireland is inadequately funded.

The most recent OECD Education at a Glance report also revealed that student-staff ratios in Irish colleges has increased to 23:1 which is an increase from the 19:1 referenced in

Funding the Future and higher than the OECD average of 17:1.

The provost also took to Twitter, where she also acknowledged the “great job” students are already doing through the student union and other organisations to address the lack of funding made in the higher education sector.

She reaffirmed that “politicians say they are not hearing from us on this issue, that it doesn’t come across as urgent, and we have to change that”.

“Together I think we can make a great difference for the sector,” she concluded.

TCD Postgraduate Workers Organisation (PWO) have criticised Doyle for not suggesting that an increase in government funding would see rents lowered in student accommodation, saying it “suggests an unwillingness to engage with those in the community who are most heavily affected by underfunding.”

While they thanked the provost for demanding increased funding for higher education, they criticised what they see as “significant shortcomings” in her statement, including failing to acknowledge the need for workers rights for postgraduates, her avoidance of both accessibility and disability rights and the cost of college fees.

They concluded: “We have little reason so far to believe that additional funding would be used to respect our rights and provide College’s researchers with bare necessities. College must do better.”

Budget 2024 is set to be announced on October 10.

Aoibhinn Clancy

Aoibhínn Clancy is the Deputy News Editor of Trinity News and is currently in her Junior Sophister Year studying History and Political Science.