Written answers

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Department of Education and Skills

Third Level Institutions

Photo of Donnchadh Ó LaoghaireDonnchadh Ó Laoghaire (Cork South Central, Sinn Fein)
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291. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to the paper produced by an association (details supplied) regarding the severe financial position facing universities and other third-level institutions; and his views on whether dedicated sustainability and growth funding is needed for the sector. [6408/20]

Photo of Joe McHughJoe McHugh (Donegal, Fine Gael)
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I have received the paper referred to by the Deputy and I will respond directly to the association in relation to the issues raised. 

Significant work has been undertaken by a stakeholder group chaired by the Higher Education Authority and including the representative bodies for the universities (IUA) and the institutes of technology (THEA) to collect information on the increased costs and projected income losses advised by HEIs arising from the crisis based on an agreed set of assumptions.  The HEA are co-ordinating the impact on financial and operational landscape for each HEI to establish if the viability of institutes is as risk.   This report will be submitted to DES for consideration. Additionally a group chaired by the Department of Education and Skills has also been established with the key stakeholders to examine the impact of and plan responses to the projected impact of Covid19 on international students numbers.

The projected financial impact of Covid19 on Higher Education and the Tertiary Education system as a whole is being assessed by the Department of Education and Skills as part of its ongoing analysis of the impact of Covid19 on the education sector overall.  The provision of additional financial support to support Tertiary Education to ensure that it can contribute fully to economic recovery and to meeting priority skill needs will be examined in the context of overall expenditure management and budgetary policy. The Department will continue to engage with key stakeholders to safeguard the recovery of the tertiary education sector.

My Department held a recent meeting with DPER to discuss the potential impact of COVID on the Tertiary Education Sector. The Higher Education sector is a key element of the economy’s economic and social infrastructure which also has a crucial role in recovery in supporting economic and social recovery.  The priority is to seek to safeguard that capacity against the backdrop of the broader economic crisis by ensuring that core provision is maintained and in particular by assessing the level of financial vulnerability that may threaten the viability of any specific HEI.  This aligns with the key principle of Government’s approach to Covid-19 which is to seek to support financially stressed entities reflecting Covid impacts across all sectors of the economy where viability is at risk. Insofar as higher education research is concerned, the Department will continue to engage with DBEI and key funding agencies to respond to specific queries.

In addition, a review is currently underway under the European Commission DG Reform’s Structural Reform Support Programme on Increasing the Future Sustainability of Higher and Further Education Provision in Ireland.  The review encompasses the review of the funding options for higher education included in the 2016 (Cassells) Report of the Expert Group on Future Funding of Higher Education.  The study is scheduled to be substantially complete in Q4 2020.

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