Wednesday, 5 April 2017
Department of Education and Skills
Third Level Funding
70. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the status of his examinations of the Cassells report on the funding of third level education; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16494/17]
73. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the timeframe for finalising decisions on third level funding and implications for student fees arising out of the Cassells report; his plans with regard to the third level registration fee; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16506/17]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 70 and 73 together.
The Expert Group on Future Funding for Higher Education, under the chairmanship of Peter Cassells, was established to develop a strategy for funding the third level sector. The report outlines the funding challenges in the sector and offers recommendations for the medium term. As committed to in the Programme for Government, the report has been referred to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Education and Skills for consideration. However, it is important to recognise, as the Cassells Report has done, that doing nothing is not an option and that other measures to improve equality of access will also be necessary.
While Cassells deals with the medium and long term funding needs of higher education my Department and I also have to consider the immediate challenges and in that context the Department placed a particular focus on this area in Budget 2017 securing additional funding for the sector for the first time in recent years. In Action Plan Education 2017, Higher Education will be a particular focus.
In Budget 2017 an additional €36.5m has been made available with €160m additional overall agreed for the next three years. This is the first time in nine years that additional Exchequer funding has been secured for the higher education sector. This will assist with demographic increases and initiatives on disadvantage, skills, research and flexible learning.
My Department, and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, are currently undertaking a public consultation process on a proposed Exchequer-Employer investment mechanism for the higher and further education sectors. The mechanism, which estimates an increase in the National Training Fund levy from 0.7% to 1% between 2018 and 2020, could yield an additional €200m revenue in 2020. Details of the process are available on the websites of both Departments. This review will complement the ongoing work by the Oireachtas Committee in relation to the Cassells report.
It is approaches such as these that will contribute to and inform the development of a long-term sustainable funding model.