Higher education is structured and funded in a wide variety of ways and arrangements are highly dependent on the context and circumstances of each individual country.
The OECD Report, “Education at a Glance 2019” provides data on the structure, finances and performance of education systems in the OECD countries, and a number of partner countries, and provides data on investment in Higher Education across the OECD. The data refers to the 2016 financial year and the data is not calculated as a proportion of GNI but rather as a proportion of GDP, as that is the approach the OECD uses across the board.
The OECD reports total expenditure for Ireland on Higher Education in 2016 at 0.8 % of GDP. This compares to an EU23 average of 1.25% in that year. Using the CSO’s recommended modified GNI measure which more accurately represents the size of the Irish economy (rather than GDP which is distorted by certain foreign investment activities), Ireland’s Higher Education expenditure is estimated to be at 1.25% of GNI.
In 2016 the OECD also reports that Ireland was spending a higher proportion of total public expenditure on Higher Education at 2.6% compared to the EU average of 2.5% .
2016 is a relatively low baseline for public spending on Higher Education in Ireland. Since 2016, my Department has significantly increased investment in Higher Education through the budgetary process. 2020 will see planned current Higher Education spending increase by 25% compared to 2016.
At €1.88bn, 2020 will see the highest level to date of spend on higher education in a single year. This investment will be used to respond to demographic pressures and to underpin a range of initiatives in the higher education sector, including a new research initiative, a substantial investment in the evolution of Technological Universities, significant skills-enhancing opportunities for individuals, sectors and regions most vulnerable to Brexit as well as updating skills more generally to prepare Ireland’s society and economy for a future world of work transformed by technology and automation.