Ensuring a sustainable funding model for the higher education sector is a key priority for me.
The Expert Group’s Report (Cassells Report) which was published in July 2016, clearly outlines the funding challenges in the higher education sector and offers a number of options for consideration. As committed to in the Programme for Government, the report has been referred to the Oireachtas Joint Committee for Education and Skills in order to build political consensus around the most appropriate future funding model. 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.
While Cassells deals with the medium and long term funding needs of higher education, I have also acted to address immediate funding challenges. A first step in this direction was the securing of additional funding for the sector in Budget 2017 of €36.5 million.
Building on that investment, I secured an additional €60m investment in higher education in Budget 2018, through a €12.5m increase in Exchequer investment together with a €47.5m investment coming from an increase of 0.1% in the NTF levy. 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.
In total, my Department will invest €100m more in Higher Education in 2018 compared to 2016, before the publication of the Cassells Report.
To complement this work, I recently published an independent expert 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, that incentivises actions in key strategic areas such as research and STEM provision, and supports improved accountability while also respecting institutional autonomy.