Written answers

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Department of Education and Skills

Higher Education Institutions

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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149. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the degree to which he remains satisfied regarding the extent to which the third and fourth-level educational sector here remains adequate to meet competition from overseas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49819/18]

Photo of Joe McHughJoe McHugh (Donegal, Fine Gael)
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My Department is working to continue re-investment in Higher Education building on the progress made in Budgets 2017 & 2018 in order to maintain and enhance our higher education sector.

Current expenditure on higher education, excluding pay restoration and pension provision, will increase by 10% in 2019 compared to 2016. We are adopting a number of measures to address the financial challenges in higher education and to ensure that higher education investment is responsive to key strategic priorities. Budget 2019 will provide €57million in additional current funding for the higher education sector. This is in addition to separate funding that has been provided for pay deals and pensions, amounting to an additional €41million in 2019.

This new current funding will be used to fund the following measures:

- provision for 3,500 additional places in our higher education institutions this is in addition to the 2,100 places provided in 2018

- initiatives to support innovation and reward excellence

- investment in teaching and learning capacity, and management and leadership

- 1,000 additional places on Springboard+,

- a new research fund for Institutes of Technology/TUs, and

- an expansion of part-time and flexible learning opportunities.

Budget 2019 also announced a new Human Capital Initiative that will involve investment of €300 million in higher education over the 5 year period from 2020 to 2024, with €60m being made available in each of those years. This investment will be funded by the National Training Fund surplus. A major objective of the Initiative is to incentivise continued reform and innovation drawing on international best practice through such mechanisms as graduate conversion, accelerated course completion, flexible and blended learning, intensified focus on employability and strengthened linkages and relationships with enterprise. It represents a significant response to projected demographic pressures impacting on the HE sector over the next five years, as highlighted in the Expert Group Report on Future Funding.

The National Training Fund is being reformed to make it more labour market focused, responsive to skills needs and providing additional investment in Further and Higher Education. Progress in implementing reforms has enabled an increase in the NTF levy by 0.1% respectively in both 2018 and 2019, with a commitment to a further 0.1% increase in 2020.

My Department has applied for the support of the Structural Reform Support Programme 2017-2020 in undertaking this economic analysis of the three future funding policy options identified by the expert group. The closing date for applications was 31st October 2018. A decision is awaited on the outcome of the application. Successful projects are expected to proceed in early 2019. Having this evaluation undertaken through the Commission’s Structural Reform Support Programme will provide the type of international expertise, analysis, and objectivity that would be beneficial to a major evaluation of this nature.

In addition, my Department and the HEA are currently reforming the model by which funding is allocated to our higher education institutions. The independent panel’s review provides a roadmap for transitioning towards a reformed funding model that is more transparent, consistent across higher education institutions, that incentivises actions in key strategic areas such as research and STEM provision, and supports improved accountability while also respecting institutional autonomy. This will ensure that the additional funding that has been made available for higher education is targeted effectively and that institutions are held accountable for how they use public resources.

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