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'Funding the Future' – What you need to know

Funding the Future, the long-awaited policy to fund third-level into the future has been brought forward by the Minister for Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris.

A decision on how the State should fund Higher Education has been looming since the release of the Cassells Report in 2016. This report warned that the State would need an additional €600m a year by 2021 to fund Higher Education - rising to €1bn extra a year by 2030.

Key Takeaways

  • According to the Department, a core funding gap of €307 million has been identified and will be addressed through additional Exchequer investment and employer contributions through the National Training Fund.

  • While this boost to core funding offers the potential of some progress for the sector, the news that there will be no immediate reduction in the €3,000 student contribution charge comes as a disappointment for the undergraduate students of today. Similarly at postgraduate level where there appears to be little or no intent to reduce upfront costs in the short-term. Only a commitment to review the charge on annual basis has been given and UCDSU will continue to campaign on this basis.

  • A proposed expansion to SUSI Grant eligibility to include part time students is a welcome reform but much more is need as several other cohorts are still likely to miss out. UCDSU is also concerned about the potential impact of putting thousands more students into a system that already needs significant overhaul.

You can access the full publication here

Why does this matter?

Irish undergraduate students currently pay the highest upfront costs for attending college in the European Union. The sector is also crying out for funding to address years of underinvestment and the staff-student ratio.

UCD Students’ Union believes that education is a right and not a privilege. This position is endorsed by UCDSU Council, meaning that we advocate and campaign for the abolition of the student contribution charge and for a sustainable model of public funding to guarantee universal access to Higher Education and a brilliant student experience. UCDSU also has spoken out repeatedly on the sky-high upfront costs for postgraduate students and will continue to do so.

Commenting on the publication of the report, UCDSU President Ruairí Power said:

Yesterday’s funding package announcement was a missed opportunity to reduce the excessive cost burden for students while plugging the gaps in core funding allocations in tandem. While a good stab has been made at addressing the core funding deficiencies, large cohorts of students will be left high and dry by lacklustre and non-committal measures to bring down the cost of attending further and higher education institutions.

To break down barriers of access, the Government must commit to a timeframe of phasing out the student contribution charge and meaningful reductions to postgraduate fees, alongside more extensive increases to the SUSI maintenance grant. The absence of specified multi-annual targets for reducing the cost burden undermines the Government’s commitment to expand access to further and higher education for underrepresented groups.