Thursday, 19 May 2022
Department of Education and Skills
Further and Higher Education
132. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the timeframe for addressing the funding gap of €307 million in higher education outlined in the recently publish future funding proposal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25390/22]
140. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills his proposals for the development of third level education in the coming years; the extra funding committed to this and the period over which this will be spent; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25238/22]
153. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if he will outline his plans to secure additional core funding for higher and further education: his plan to reduce the student contribution charge and improve SUSI grants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25288/22]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 132, 140 and 153 together.
On 4th May I launched the Funding the Future framework which includes the Government's policy response to the Cassells and DG Reform Reviews on the future of higher education.
The Government has now made important decisions about the sustainable model for future funding of higher education. Critically, we have definitively taken student loans off the table. We have instead chosen a mixed model of investment, which includes funding from the Exchequer, employers and from students.
The policy sets out the vision and direction of higher education funding, our ambitions to drive reform and support agility and responsiveness in the sector, and the need to ensure that students are supported in accessing education and training. This includes:
- Planned additional investment of €307 million to address core funding challenges for our institutions, that will be made over a number of years through annual budgetary processes. This does not account for future demographic needs or new policy proposals for higher education.
- Plans to consider options to address cost as a barrier to higher education, and how we will pursue funding measures on these issues through the Estimates process, including in respect of reductions to the student contribution and enhancements to the SUSI grant in line with the Student Grant Review.
The provision of Higher Education funding on an annual basis is part of overall expenditure management and budgetary policy for Government. It is of course imperative that funding is made available to my Department to support these plans and I will be seeking to have the additional funding required to address the identified core funding gap and also to address costs of attending higher education as part of the annual Estimates processes over the coming years.
I have been clear, however, that I want to see the student contribution in higher education reduced in a meaningful way over the course of future Budgets. I want this done in a way which does not negatively impact on the sustainable core funding for higher education. Higher Education Institutions currently receive c.€438m from student contributions (€248m from students and €190m from the Exchequer through SUSI). Reductions in such income must be offset through increases in other sources of revenue if the quality of higher education programmes and the ability of institutions to meet growing demand is not to be significantly undermined.
Looking forward to future Estimates processes, my Department’s intention is to publish an annual cost of education paper in advance of each Budget. This will set out the options available to address financial barriers to education, including changes to the student grant scheme, reductions to the student contribution, and other measures. This will seek to inform Budgetary prioritisation to ensure that we fund the most impactful measures to support students and their families.
I understand that Mayo Sligo Leitrim ETB (MSLETB) has identified projects associated with Mayo College of Further Education for possible funding under the new capital investment programmes in the further education and training sector, namely the FET College of the Future Major Projects Fund and the Strategic Infrastructure Upgrade Fund (SIUF).
This capital investment will support additional capacity, upgrading and enhancement of current infrastructure in the further education and training sector.
Proposals submitted by MSLETB will be assessed alongside other proposals from the sector. The first projects approved to proceed to appointment of a design team under the SIUF are expected to be announced from mid-June onwards, while major projects proceeding to development of a detailed business case are expected to be confirmed in late July.