The Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris TD has launched - Funding the Future – a landmark policy on the future of higher education - on May 4th 2022.
Funding the Future, which was approved for publication by Government yesterday, settles the question on funding Higher Education.
Today, the Government has decided that income contingent loans for fees will not form part of the future funding model. Instead, the Government is committing to a multi-funded model of additional Exchequer investment and employer contributions through the National Training Fund.
A core funding gap of €307 million has been identified. It is intended to provide additional funding through the annual budgetary process to eliminate this funding shortfall and bring core funding into line with our international peers. Funding for future demographic growth and new policy proposals will be in addition to this.
The Minister will progress measures to reduce the cost of education for students and families through changes to the Student Grant Scheme and student contributions over time. This will be advanced through the publication of an annual assessment on reducing the cost of education for students and families to inform annual budget processes.
Minister Harris said: “Today is an important day for the future of our country as we set out the vision and direction of higher education funding in this country.
“We are confirming our commitment to addressing legacy issues in higher education and detailing our ambitious plans for investment and reform.
“Crucially, I also set out my response to the increasing cost of third level education. Cost cannot and should not be a barrier to accessing education.
“It is my firm intention to take the pressure off families and listen to the calls of our younger generations. Measures to reduce the cost of education through changes to the Student Grant Scheme and the student contribution will be on the table for the coming budgets.”
“As always, the people we serve are central to all we do. Today, we settle the question on higher education funding. We will increase our investment. We will also support our students.”
The planned investment of €307 million as part of Funding the Future, and which is in addition to the current €2 billion annual spend on Higher Education in Ireland, will focus on improving the quality of programmes, their outcomes, and providing a third-level education system which is accessible to everyone in society.
The Funding the Future papers also commit to reducing the cost of higher education for students through changes to the Student Grant Scheme and the student contribution. The Minister will continue to prioritise students who have the highest levels of financial difficulty.
As part of these proposals, the Department will seek to simplify the Student Grant Scheme. It will also conduct an analysis of part-time courses with a view to introducing statutory supports for part-time students.
This policy is in response to two independent reports carried out. The first is the European Commission report into funding Higher Education and an Independent Review of the Student Grant Scheme. Both can be found at gov.ie/FutureFunding.
Minister Harris added: “Ireland’s further and higher education, training and research system is a strategic national asset which is essential to achieving a knowledge-based, innovative, creative society and economy.”
“Through reform and investment, I am confident that we will deliver on this together to achieve the best for our society, for our country and for our future.”
The Minister also confirmed he will chair a new oversight group to drive reforms. This will focus on creating a unified system and improving pathways between further and higher education.
This will be co-chaired by Professor Tom Collins and Professor Anne Looney.
For further information please see press release here