The Royal Irish Academy (RIA) released a policy paper last week titled “Royal Irish Academy Advice Paper on the Future Funding of Higher Education in Ireland.” In the paper, the RIA outlined the flaws in the current Higher Education system and proposed several solutions to rectify the situation. The RIA believes that before the economic crash the higher educational system was becoming a “respectable and competitive system,” but after 2008 they claim that it has undergone “a severe divestment of its funding base,” going on to back this statement up with several statistics.
The paper, published on January 29th states that Ireland’s student/staff ratio has risen from 16:1 in 2008 (which even at that point in time was higher than today’s OECD average of 14:1) to 20:1 in 2016. The paper also covers the rise in students and the fall in funding, with statistics stating an 85 per cent cut in Higher Education funding and a 25 per cent increase in student levels in Higher Education over the past eight years. There is a section dedicated to the weaknesses of the current higher level education situation.
The RIA propose in the paper that in order to salvage the higher education system the following steps must be taken: An income-contingent scheme must be introduced in which students should only be paying back their loans when their respective incomes reach a certain quota. They also propose that additional funding be provided by the government and that an “emergency public capital investment fund” be established for repairs in the higher education sector for educational facilities. The RIA calls for a 30 per cent increase in academic staff to restore a student/staff ratio of 16:1. The Higher Education Authority (HEA) propose that €5.8 Billion be invested into the higher education system over the next ten years. A minimum increase of 20 per cent is proposed to be introduced for research funding. Finally, higher education and further education should be considered as “Tertiary Education,” and have their funding merged to produce “stronger student progression and completion and value to the varied needs of Ireland.”