Date Uploaded: 24/05/2016
Education Minister Richard Bruton will soon publish the completed report of an expert group on how to fund third-level education including the key question of whether students or government should meet the growing shortfall.
However, no government decisions will be made until the various options set out by the Peter Cassells-chaired group — including a student loan scheme like those used in Australia, UK and elsewhere — are debated by the new Oireachtas education committee.
The level of public investment in higher education is a clear factor in Ireland’s fall of one place to 19th in the 2016 Universitas 21 Ranking. It compares national systems across 50 countries, and Ireland’s score is now at its lowest since this international comparison was first published in 2012.
Ireland does very well on measures of the research and publications output of its colleges, ranking 17th.
In terms of the employment value of third-level education to graduates, compared to those who did not progress educationally after school, Ireland is ranked seventh. This regularly-highlighted benefit of a college degree has been one of the arguments made by those, including many third-level bosses, who favour increased student contributions towards higher education.
Already the fee for those who do not receive grants has jumped to €3,000 a year. When government spending on education is compared, Ireland is ranked 24th by Universitas 21, down seven places. The figures are based on 2012 and 2013 investment levels.
From 2008 to 2015, direct State funding for staff and running costs fell 38% at the same time that full-time student numbers rose 25%. As well as this 22% cut in total funding per student, from €11,000 to €9,000, senior Department of Education officials have advised Mr Bruton that €110m set aside for higher education capital investment up to 2021 is woefully inadequate and will not address its needs.
Journalist: Niall Murray