A decade of drastic financial cuts to Irish Universities threatens the future competitiveness of the nation and hinders the ‘best in Europe’ government ambition.
The Irish Universities Association are calling for an increase in investment to €130m into the seven Irish Universities in Budget 2019.
Since 2008, core funding issued by the government towards each University student has been halved from €9,000 per student to under €4,500. Irish Universities have been forced to take cost-cutting measures and to fund enrolment through internal efficiencies to counteract these drastic cuts.
The quality of resources and infrastructure in Irish Universities have gone into decline as little capital has been put towards the refurbishment of buildings, facilities and equipment. According to Director General of the Irish Universities Association (IUA), Jim Miley, their proposal for budget 2019 would be used to “urgently address the underlying quality issues arising from a decade of underfunding as well as building capacity to absorb the significant growth in student numbers”.
The IUA is seeking an increase of €130m in core funding and €104m in essential capital upgrades in 2019. Out of the €130m core funding, €90m of this would be invested in capacity and quality and the other €40m would go towards meeting unavoidable cost increases.
With the huge cuts in investment in third level institutions, Irish universities are beginning to lose their competitive edge globally. This year our only Irish entry on the Top 100 Global Universities, Trinity College Dublin, dropped 16 places to 104th on the list, losing their prestigious place among many other highly esteemed Universities throughout the globe.
Over the past decade of financial turmoil, all sectors have taken huge budgetary cuts, with higher level education taking a huge hit in particular, but the fact of the matter is that education is not a sector that can afford to take such drastic cuts.
Continuous investment into the education sector is essential for any country that wishes to remain competitive on an international scale, and for any country that cares about its future and the quality of the lives of its citizens.
In 2016, a Report on the Expert Group on Future Funding for Higher Education, also known as the Cassells Report, was issued, and found that in order to cater for “increased student numbers, capital upgrades, health and safety issues, equipment renewal and ongoing maintenance” €5.5 billion government expenditure would be required towards the higher education sector by 2030.
But, government inaction since the Cassells Report, has shown that the declining standards of education in Irish Universities are not an issue that politicians are too interested in.
The IUA believe that if University funding is not increased in Budget 2019, the government could be faced with a far greater problem on their hands as capital stock such as buildings, equipment etc deteriorate beyond repair and require complete replacement.
The issue we are facing today is that the standard of our Higher Education system will erode if the government continue to ignore the fact that the number of students who are attending and plan on attending third level education is rising, while capital investment does not cater to these demands.
If the government hope to achieve their best in Europe National Strategy on Higher Education by 2030, it is of the utmost importance that they make the choice to invest in the future of Ireland.
Photo courtesy of the IUA