I raise the issue of third level funding in general, with particular reference to the Castlebar campus of GMIT which, like many institutes of technology, faces significant financial challenges, notwithstanding the fact that student numbers are growing at third and fourth level across the State. However, most of the buoyancy is within the universities sector and, unfortunately, the institutes of technology are struggling. A financial review carried out last year for the Department of Education and Skills identified this issue which I raise wondering what steps are being taken.
In the case of the Castlebar campus of GMIT, there is a debt shortfall of €2 million. I understand there is also a deficit in Letterfrack. The Castlebar campus matter was highlighted at the monthly meeting of Mayo County Council where concerns were raised by my colleague, Councillor Michael Smyth, and Councillor Michael Kilcoyne. A meeting has taken place with the president of GMIT, but I understand it may not have resulted in much. Ultimately, it is a matter for the Department to give a commitment to provide additional funding in order that the current suite of courses will not be reduced in any way. There is a precedent within the Department in the provision of an additional €3 million which was made available to a second campus of Letterkenny Institute of Technology in Killybegs for the ongoing suite of courses offered there.
I am not sure if a request has been made, but certainly one is to be made for a meeting between the Minister and a delegation from Mayo County Council to discuss this issue. I understand a motion was passed at the most recent monthly meeting of the council seeking a meeting. I encourage the Minister to meet councillors as they are the persons best equipped to raise local concerns about the campus. I hope he has some news or an update for us and can share the outlook of the Department. I note that he provided additional funding in the recent budget, which I welcome. Ultimately, however, there are increasing education demands and the IT sector must be funded to play a key role. It cannot leverage funding from the private sector in the same way as universities for research and development and in other avenues. The IT sector must be encouraged, supported and facilitated across the board to meet the capacity demands on the third and fourth level education sector in the years to come.