I propose to take Questions Nos. 41 and 43 together.
An additional allocation of €153 million will be made in higher and further education and training in 2020. This significant level of investment will be used to respond to demographic pressures and to underpin a range of initiatives in the higher education sector, including key enhancements for teaching and learning, as well as providing skills-enhancing opportunities for those individuals, sectors and regions most vulnerable to Brexit or requiring updated skills in the world of work transformed by technology and automation.
This funding builds on the progress in previous budgets and overall the higher education spend has increased by 25% over the past four years. At €1.88bn, 2020 will see the highest level to date of spend on higher education in a single year.
This funding will provide:
- For the launch of the Human Capital Initiative with €60 million in 2020, providing an additional 3,000 student places.
- €19 million to address demographic pressures, accommodating a further 2,700 places.
- A multi-annual fund of €90 million to assist the development and progression of Technological Universities (TUs).
- Funding of €3.3 million to promote excellence in research.
- Funding of €2 million for student mental health and wellbeing initiatives in the higher education sector.
Budget 2020 will deliver an additional 2,700 new undergraduate student places through investment of €19m in 2020. This is reflective of the growing demographic pressures in higher education. This is part of a €60m increase in current funding to provide for increased student numbers over the three year period 2018-2020.
Increased demographic provision will be supplemented by the expansion of places in Higher Education in priority skill areas under the Human Capital Initiative (HCI). Through this fund an additional 1,500 undergraduate and 1,500 graduate conversion places will be provided in 2020. This equates to a total of 5,700 additional student places in higher education in 2020.
The HCI will be a transformative development for the third level sector. The HCI will invest €300 million in Higher Education over the period 2020 to 2024. Funded from the surplus in the National Training Fund, the HCI will help to realise the objectives of Project Ireland 2040, Future Jobs Ireland and the National Skills Strategy. At €60 million per year over the next 5 years, it will form a key part of our strategic response to addressing the skills needs of the economy, mitigating Brexit risks, responding to digitalisation and the future world of work, and preparing ourselves for other challenges that the economy may face.
In order to actively address increasing demand on wellbeing, I have announced ring-fenced funding of €2m which will assist institutions in supporting students with their mental health and wellbeing. This is in addition to existing spending, in the region of €7m, by institutions in the area of ‘Welfare and Guidance’ which includes counselling services, health promotion, careers service, multi-faith, racial and ethnic cultural support.
The objective Research Excellence fund is to strengthen the international competitiveness and visibility of Ireland’s research capability. Excellence in research emerges on the basis of international competition and collaboration, and these are increasingly important, especially in addressing today's global challenges. Ireland's research system is well regarded internationally in relation to factors such as academic freedom, a culture of open intellectual engagement and support for innovation.
As part of a programme of planned reforms of the National Training Fund the levy has increased from 0.7% to 1.0% between 2018 and 2020. The increase in the Training Levy has yielded an additional €190 million for investment in the tertiary education sector over this period. This investment has facilitated the huge growth we have seen in apprenticeship numbers, a 40% increase in participants in Skillnet Ireland programmes, and has led to the creation of the important ETB Skills to Advance programme.
Through Budget 2020 my Department has committed €27m in additional funding to further the expansion of the apprenticeship programme with over 7,500 new registrations on craft and new apprenticeships. An additional €8 million will support 7,000 additional participants on Skillnet Ireland programmes including a new digital skills initiative and an SME upskilling scheme. The ETB Skills to Advance programme will be supported with an additional €6 million to allow for the upskilling of an additional 3,000 people in the workforce.
Overall, I am confident that this substantial level of addtional investment in third level education will bring significant benefits both for individuals and in terms of enhancing the skills available across the Irish economy to equip us for an ever-changing environment locally, nationally and on the global stage.