Written answers

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Department of Education and Skills

Higher Education Schemes

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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117. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding the Department of the Taoiseach's strategy statement and its commitment to meet the demographic challenges in higher education. [49414/17]

Photo of Richard BrutonRichard Bruton (Dublin Bay North, Fine Gael)
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Higher education is a central part of our plan as a Government to support a strong economy and deliver a fair society and I have taken a number of steps towards achieving this important objective.

As committed to in the Programme for Government, I have referred the Report of the Expert Group on Future Funding for Higher Education to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Education and Skills. The Report sets out a number of proposals to develop a long term sustainable funding model.  I look forward to receiving the Committee's recommendations. This will assist in facilitating informed decision-making for the future direction of funding for higher education.

While the Committee are undertaking this important work, I have been working in the interim to secure additional funding for higher education to address, inter alia, rising demographics. This commitment is reflected in the recent Budget 2018 announcement in which the higher education sector will benefit from a total investment package of €60m in additional funding in 2018. This funding is on top of the €36.5m that I secured for 2017 and which is being provided again in 2018. In total, we will be investing €100m more in higher education in 2018 than in 2016. This additional funding will allow for targeted initiatives in higher education and will allow for places to be provided for 2,100 additional students in 2018.

In Budget 2017, the Government increased Exchequer funding to higher education by €36.5 million and announced a consultation exercise to consider an Employer-Exchequer Investment Mechanism.  This reflected the recommendation in the Report of  the Expert Group on Future Funding of Higher Education that a structured contribution from employers should form a key element of future funding for higher education as employers are major beneficiaries of higher education.

Following a public consultation process on a proposed Exchequer-Employer Investment Mechanism earlier this year, it was announced in Budget 2018 that the National Training Fund levy will be raised by 0.1% in 2018 from 0.7% to 0.8% and by a further 0.1% in both 2019 and 2020. This measure allows for additional expenditure of €47.5 million from the Fund in 2018. The 2019 and 2020 levy increases will be subject to the implementation of the necessary reforms to ensure that employers have a greater role in determining the priorities and the strategic direction of the Fund. 

In addition, the Exchequer will also make an additional investment of €17m in 2018.  Together this will facilitate an increase of €64.5 million in the Department’s expenditure ceiling.  This will be used to fund initiatives in the higher education system including targeted skills programmes, performance and innovation funding, technological university development and apprenticeship costs in the higher education sector.

Also, following the review of the Capital Plan, a total of €357m in capital funding is now available for investment in higher education over the period 2018-2021.

 As set out in the Programme for Government, this comprehensive approach is being taken in order to achieve a sustainable funding model for the higher education sector going forward. It will be important to build broad political and societal consensus in realising this goal and my Department and I continue to work towards that end.

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