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Higher education requires a long-term funding strategy

The number of full-time students enrolled in higher education in Ireland has increased by 33 per cent in the last decade, however funding has not kept pace with the increased student intake. public funding for higher education in Ireland has been decreasing since 2009 despite steadily increasing enrolments both full and part time.  An increasing population of school-leavers demands that considerable investment is required to ensure that the higher education sector in Ireland can continue to cope.  Funding announcements in recent Budgets are insufficient to address for the lack of investment since 2009 and the increased student numbers.

Investment in higher education will have to increase significantly over the next decade and given the projected increases in student intake it is difficult to see how public spending on higher education can be curtailed. Investment in higher education delivers social and economic returns to society including:

  • higher tax contributions,
  • reduced welfare dependency,
  • increased contribution to social and economic development from graduates 
  • greater social mobility

Despite the publication of the Report of the Expert Group on Funding Higher Education in 2016, 3 years later and we still have no strategy for how to fund higher education into the future.  The funding requirements for higher education in Ireland should be benchmarked against the funding in those countries we aspire to emulate and compete with.

Social Justice Ireland  proposes that Government develop a framework to deliver sustainable funding revenues for higher education over the next five years with a roadmap to 2028. This framework should have clear medium and long-term targets.

Overall, this framework should form part of a longer term strategy for Ireland’s education system as a whole, incorporating:

  • Early childhood education,
  • primary and second level education
  • Higher education
  • Further Education and Training
  • Lifelong Learning
  • Skills development