Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Questions (170)

Micheál Martin


170. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding the programme for Government commitments on third level funding. [43633/17]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

Higher education is a central part of our plan as a Government to support a strong economy and deliver a fair society and I have taken a number of steps towards achieving this important objective.

As committed to in the Programme for Government, I have referred the Report of the Expert Group on Future Funding for Higher Education to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Education and Skills. The Report sets out a number of proposals to develop a long term sustainable funding mode.  I look forward to receiving the Committee's recommendations. This will assist in facilitating informed decision-making for the future direction of funding for higher education.

While the Committee are undertaking this important work, I have been working in the interim to secure additional funding for higher education. This commitment is reflected in last week's Budget 2018 announcement in which the higher education sector will benefit from a total investment package of €60m in additional funding in 2018. This funding is on top of the €36.5m that I secured for 2017 and which is being provided again in 2018. In total, we will be investing €100m more in higher and further education in 2018 than in 2016.

This additional funding will allow for targeted initiatives in higher education including skills programmes, performance and innovation funding, technological university development and apprenticeship costs in the sector. It will also allow for places to be provided for 2,100 additional students in 2018.

It should also be noted that an independent Expert Panel appointed by the Higher Education Authority (HEA) have reviewed the Recurrent Grant Allocation Model (RGAM) with a view to making recommendations on the most appropriate model for the future. A Report on the review has been finalized by the Expert Panel and has been submitted to my Department for consideration. 

As set out in the Programme for Government, this comprehensive approach is being taken in order to achieve a sustainable funding model for the higher education sector going forward. It will be important to build broad political and societal consensus in realising this goal and my Department and I continue to work towards that end.