The Report of the Expert Group on Future Funding (Cassells Report) which was published in July 2016, clearly outlines the funding challenges in the higher education sector and offers a number of potential policy approaches for consideration. One of these options is for the introduction of an income contingent loan scheme.
As committed to in the Programme for Government, I have referred the Cassells report to the Oireachtas Joint Committee for Education and Skills, as part of the process for building political consensus around the most appropriate means of ensuring a sustainable future funding model for the future. My Department looks forward to receiving the Committee’s recommendations which will assist in facilitating informed decision-making for the future direction of funding for higher education. No decisions will be taken in advance of receiving the views of the Committee.
While Cassells deals with the medium and long term funding needs of higher education we also have to consider the immediate challenges. We have therefore prioritised this area in Budgets 2017 and 2018. As a result of this additional investment, my Department is investing €100m more in higher education in 2018 compared to 2016, before the publication of the Cassells Report.
in addition, I recently published an independent review of the current allocation model for funding higher education which provides a roadmap for transitioning towards a reformed funding model that is more transparent, consistent across higher education institutions, incentivises actions in key strategic areas such as research and STEM provision, and supports improved accountability while also respecting institutional autonomy.