Thursday, 16 November 2023
Department of Education and Skills
254. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide further information on the number of science courses within technological universities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50307/23]
TUs are important providers, regionally and nationally, of STEM programmes and of other higher vocational, technical, technological and professional skills programmes. They are legislatively required in so far as possible in the performance of their functions to contribute to the promotion of the scientific and technological development of the State.
All five TUs provide a comprehensive range of science and science related programmes at undergraduate and postgraduate levels.
The Qualifax website - www.qualifax.ie/courses - identifies all current available courses in Ireland's higher education institutions, as do the official websites of the individual TUs.
Under the Science or Applied Science categories, Qualifax identifies:
- 60 programmes in TU Dublin
- 51 programmes in Munster Technological University
- 31 programmes in Technological University of the Shannon: Midlands Midwest
- 91 programmes in Atlantic Technological University
- 57 programmes in South East Technological University
More broadly, there are a number of key strategies and initiatives in place to ensure that we meet existing and future skills demands, with a particular focus on STEM areas. These include policies designed to ensure a pipeline of suitably qualified science and technical graduates, and initiatives to equip young people and the working population more generally with the skills and capacity to meet these demands. These strategies and initiatives include the National Skills Strategy 2025, Springboard+ and the Human Capital Initiative.
255. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills what his Department is doing to attract and promote women to the area of science and science courses in technological universities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50308/23]
Inclusion is one of the core strategic goals for my Department, and my ambition is to ensure that we provide supports and opportunities for learning to all. The Government’s STEM Education Policy Statement was published in 2017 and targets a 40% increase in the number of females taking STEM subjects for Leaving Certificate, which is critical for driving better participation at third level. On 18 May 2021, Minister Foley and I announced details of a new partnership between Science Foundation Ireland and the Department of Education to support education and public engagement projects in STEM across the country. The Department of Education will contribute up to €500,000 towards successful projects under the SFI Discover Programme, with the aim of supporting effective interventions in the early-years STEM education continuum. This was a welcome partnership between Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) and the Department of Education.
Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) is committed to increasing the number of SFI grants held by woman researchers, as described in its Gender Strategy. In 2021 the Frontiers for Partnership was launched to support highly excellent, impactful research. As a result 15 projects led by TUs and IOTs in Ireland have received €16.2m in funding, three of which were led by woman researchers in the TUs and four of which had woman co-leads in the Universities.
In order to support enhanced focus on research activities within the TU/IoT sector, all applicants to the Frontiers for the Future Programmes can apply for teaching replacement of up to 50% of their teaching load for the full duration of the grant. In the last round of funding, 33% of projects were led by women. The SFI-IRC Pathway programme has a key objective to increase the representation of women in the higher education sector. The programme runs on a quota system where each research body, including the TU/IoT sector may nominate a maximum of 16 STEM-led and 8 AHSS-led applications. No more than eight of the 16 STEM-led, and four of the 8 AHSS-led, nominated applicants may be men. The last round of funding resulted in a 50% is a strong endorsement of the programme as a key part of the SFI Gender strategy success rate for women researchers. STEM education is critical to our future growth in talent and for economic development. Young people are our scientists and researchers of the future. This will benefit many young learners across the country and encourage them to engage with science subjects, and hopefully consider a career in STEM in the future.
Existing programmes to support, encourage and attract women to STEM in Higher Education include Springboard+ and the Human Capital Initiative. Springboard+ and Human Capital Initiative Pillar 1 continues to complement the core State-funded education and training system and provides free and subsidised upskilling and reskilling higher education opportunities in areas of identified skills need. Springboard+ 2023 has a strong STEM focus, 62.35% of courses are in STEM areas. Under HCI Pillar 1 2023 62% of HCI Pillar 1 course places in academic year 2023 are in STEM-related areas.
256. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the cost per year on the expansion of science courses within technological universities; how much funding was allocated in total for this year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50309/23]
In considering the matters raised it is important to note that Technological Universities, as autonomous institutions, are responsible for their own academic affairs including the curriculum and student numbers on individual courses. The costs incurred by a Technological University in increasing student places on a particular course, or range of courses, can vary depending on a variety factors including the type of course and the individual circumstances of the relevant provider. Meeting the costs of provision is a matter for the respective institution within the context of its overall budget.
In terms of recurrent sectoral funding supports my Department allocates recurrent grant funding to the Higher Education Authority (HEA), for direct disbursement to HEA funded institutions, towards the operating costs of public HEIs, including Technological Universities. The overall 2023 REV recurrent allocation for higher education is circa €1.4 billion, this includes both Exchequer and National Training Fund monies.
The annual core recurrent grant is allocated, by the HEA, to each institution using an allocation model known as the Recurrent Grant Allocation Model (RGAM). The annual core grant is allocated by the HEA to the HEIs as a block grant towards teaching, research and supporting activities. The allocation of the core grant is determined on a formula basis, based on a per-capita amount in respect of weighted eligible EU student numbers (and non-EU research) in four broad subject price groups. There are additional weightings for postgraduate and research students. Elements of the core grant are informed by access metrics and research metrics.
The internal allocation of funds between teaching, research and supporting activities is a matter for each institution. There is full institutional autonomy to deploy this block grant in the most effective manner across teaching, research and supporting activities. In this regard, it is not possible to attribute recurrent funding as provided for the purpose of expansion in science courses within technological universities specifically.