Wednesday, 18 January 2017
Department of Education and Skills
Institutes of Technology Funding
39. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if he will address the ongoing funding issues regarding institutes of technology across the country and in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2006/17]
My Department and the Higher Education Authority (HEA) are aware of the financial difficulties being experienced by a number of the Institutes of Technology (IoTs), including Letterkenny IoT. The HEA has been closely monitoring the financial position of all of the IoTs and in particular is working closely with those Institutes operating in deficit to ensure appropriate mechanisms are put in place to eliminate the deficit as quickly as possible.
The Financial Review of the Institutes, published last year by the HEA, was carried out in order to provide an overview of the financial health of the sector, to consider capacity issues and to examine the challenges for the institutions given their respective plans for the future. It was based on the assumption that static Exchequer funding coupled with continuing growth in student numbers could make a number of Institutes unsustainable. The Report recognised the need to examine the underlying sustainability issues that existed across the sector and highlighted the need for a review of how funding is being allocated given the significant changes that are occurring in the higher education sector. It makes a number of recommendations on how some of the issues which contribute to funding problems in the IOT sector can be addressed. My Department is working closely with the HEA in relation to those recommendations.
For example, the report clearly identifies the need for a review of the present funding model and work is under way in the HEA to undertake this task as quickly as possible.
Funding overall for the higher education sector is a key concern for me, particularly in light of the additional pressure that will fall on the system over the next decade or so – an issue which is clearly set out in the Report of the Expert Group on the Future Funding for Higher Education, which is currently with the Joint Oireachtas Committee for consideration. However, in seeking to address the issue in the short term, I have for the first time in nine years secured additional funding for the sector with €36.5m additional being made available this year and €160m additional overall over the next three years.
In addition, in Budget 2017 the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform and I announced a policy review with the aim of designing and implementing a sustainable and predictable multi-annual funding model for higher and further education and training involving increased Employer and Exchequer contributions from 2018. The review will be undertaken as part of the overall response to meeting the anticipated skills needs in the economy over the coming years, in line with the policy framework set out in the National Skills Strategy.
It will include an analysis of the business case for enhanced investment in the higher and further education and training sectors. In this context it will identify key elements of the new funding model and of the expected impacts including those on employers. The review will include consultation with stakeholders. It is expected that the policy review will be published by the end of April 2017, and will complement the ongoing work by the Oireachtas Committee in relation to the Cassells report.