As Minister for Education & Skills, I am committed to continuing the process of investing in our higher education system and to the development and implementation of a sustainable funding model for the sector.
As part of the 2020 budget process, an additional €112m was committed which represents additional investment in higher education. €26m of Exchequer funding will be allocated to Higher Education Institutions in respect of pay and pension restoration measures.
An additional €19m will be invested by the Exchequer for HE demographics in 2020 to deliver an additional 2,700 new undergraduate student places. This is reflective of the growing demographic pressures in higher education and is part of a €60m increase in current funding to provide for increased student numbers over the three year period 2018-2020.
A key part of additional investment is the Human Capital Initiative (HCI) which 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.
Following these planned increases in higher education spending for 2020 announced in the recent Estimates, planned current spending on higher education for 2020 will have increased by 25% compared to that planned for 2016 – an increase in the order of €370 million. This is estimated to bring current funding for the higher education sector to €1.88 billion in 2020. This exceeds the previous peak level of planned investment of €1.78 billion made in the sector in 2008.
My commitment and the Government's commitment to investment in higher education is clearly demonstrated by this scale of investment.