Wednesday, 14 October 2020
Department of Education and Skills
Third Level Institutions
236. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if his Department is monitoring the debt levels of publicly funded universities and technological universities; the total amount and by each publicly funded university and technological university; the anticipated impact on levels of debt held by universities due to Covid-related disruption to the 2019-20 and 2020-21 academic years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26804/20]
Irish Universities have autonomy to borrow in their own name within a framework to be agreed with the HEA, the Dept of Finance and Dept of Public Expenditure and Reform. Section 38 of the Universities Act, 1997 states that:
(1) A university may borrow money by means of bank overdraft or otherwise and may guarantee or underwrite a loan taken or borrowing undertaken by a person or a body of persons.
(2) Borrowing, guaranteeing and underwriting under subsection (1) shall be in accordance with a framework which shall be agreed from time to time between the universities and An tÚdarás, following consultation by An tÚdarás with the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform and the Minister for Finance.
The intent of the framework is as follows:
- That a university can engage in borrowing, underwriting and guaranteeing activities provided that they impose no threat to, and do not create any contingent liabilities for, the public purse.
- To ensure that the capacity of a university to function effectively is not endangered.
- That advanced approval by An tÚdarás or the ministers, of individual instances of borrowing, underwriting or guaranteeing by a university would not be required.
University borrowing arising from fully self-financed or tax financed projects approved under the Finance Acts, are not subject to the borrowing limit established under this framework and may take place provided the servicing of those borrowings has no impact on the annual income of the University. Universities are required to submit details of their Framework and non-Framework borrowings to the HEA on an annual basis.
The University Borrowings as at 30-09-2019 are as follows:
There is no borrowing framework in place for the Technological Universities or Institutes of Technology.
Since the onset of Covid-19 in March, the Department, the Higher Education Authority have collaborated with key stakeholders, including the institutes and representative bodies from the sector, to address the financial impacts of Covid 19 on the sector, including costs associated with the safe commencement of the 2020/21 academic year in line with Public Health advice.
To alleviate the financial impact I have allocated €168 million in funding to support further and higher education institutions in a safe return to education and additional resources to support students. For the Education providers under the remit of my Department, the allocation includes funding towards Support to Front line response; Immediate ICT costs relating to online provision; Health and Safety Costs and Research costs.
Additionally, on 24thJuly as part of the government’s announcement on the stimulus package an additional funding allocation of €47.5m for higher-education skills-related programmes has been provided.
I will continue to work with further and higher education providers, agencies and key stakeholders to mitigate the additional pressures faced as a result of covid-19.