The Irish Universities Association have called for investments of over €230 million to be set aside for universities in their submission on Budget 2019. This includes a €130 million increase in core funding and a further €104 million lift in capital investment to “inject essential resources into our universities.”

 

In a media release yesterday, Director General of the IUA Jim Miley stated that Budget 2019 “must urgently address the underlying quality issues arising from a decade of underfunding as well as building capacity to absorb the significant growth in student numbers.”

 

“We are seeking an increase of €130m in core current funding and €104m in essential capital upgrades in 2019. State funding per student now is just half what it was ten years ago.”

 

The budget submission also calls for the autonomy of universities to be “re-balanced” in line with the national third level strategy, questioning the need for a tight grip over universities’ employment regimes. The Employment Control Framework, which has regulated the recruitment processes of Irish universities since 2011, “may have been appropriate in recessionary times, [but] its continuation is stifling the capacity of universities to respond to the rapidly changing needs of the economy and to compete effectively in an internationalised higher education environment.”

 

The Association, which represents Ireland’s 7 universities, also called on the government to “take a decisive step on 3rd level funding” in Budget 2019, “following a decade of underinvestment in the sector.” Pointing out that it has now been 725 days since the publication of the 2016 Report of the Expert Group on Future Funding for Higher Education, Miley stated that, “the gap in core [university] funding to 2021… remains in excess of €550 million.”

 

The call comes in the wake of Trinity College Dublin’s tumble to 104th in the QS World University Rankings 2018. TCD, which fell by 16 places, was Ireland’s only university in the top 100. University College Dublin also suffered a fall by 25 places to 193rd.

 

“Already this year, we have seen a decline in our position in international ranking systems. Without significant additional investment, universities cannot enhance their efforts to improve access and better respond to skills needs across the economy.”

 

“It is essential that this funding cap is bridged if there is to be any meaningful progress on achieving the Government’s ambition to have a ‘best in Europe’ higher education system. Or to put it more bluntly, failure to bridge the gap leaves Ireland trailing behind competing nations.”

 

University management have been pressing the Irish government to support higher level education in recent years. In 2016, UCD President Andrew Deeks and TCD Provost Patrick Prendergast stated that “the political system must now make the difficult choices that are needed to improve the funding given to universities and in the manner in which this funding is distributed.”