The Irish Universities Association (IUA) has called for an €841 million government investment into the higher education sector ahead of Budget 2023.
The IUA said in its pre-budget submission that “Budget 2023 provides the first opportunity for government to deliver on its pledge to provide a sustainable funding model for Irish higher education”.
The €841 million package sought by the IUA would be used for core, research and capital funding.
The proposed €386 million of core funding includes €170 million to fund an additional 730 academic posts and further support staff. This €170 million would come from the additional €307 million of core funding that the government has allocated to higher education over the next three budgets as part of the “Funding the Future” framework.
Another €42 million of the proposed core funding is allocated to cover the growth in student numbers in 2022/23, while an additional €11 million is to co-fund Irish universities’ participation in European University Alliances.
The remaining €163 million of proposed core funding is to be used to increase pay and cover inflation-related costs.
Of the €95 million allocated to research funding, €20 million would fund indirect research costs, €25 million would fund discovery research schemes and €50 million would be spent on maintaining and upgrading research infrastructure. The IUA said that these investments in research are required to meet the goals outlined in “Impact 2030”, the government’s research and innovation strategy.
The IUA is seeking €360 million in capital funding, €200 million of which would be spent on a capital growth fund to “meet the infrastructure needs arising from the rapid growth in student numbers over the last decade and the projected growth over the coming decade”. Some of this €200 million would be used for student accommodation.
A green campus investment fund, a digital investment programme and grant funding to mitigate cyber-attacks are also being sought as part of the IUA’s planned capital funding.
The Technological Higher Education Association (THEA) – which represents technological universities and institutes of technology – also released a pre-budget submission calling for increased funding for student supports, which it called “the most important education priority for government”.
This submission also calls for increased funding for research, subsidisation of student accommodation costs, and legislation to allow technological universities to borrow on financial markets.
Neither representative body firmly advocated for reductions in the student contribution charge.
THEA said that “equity considerations” would favour an increase in income thresholds for SUSI grants to cutting fees but added “without the detailed data that is available to government, we are not in a position to comment on which is the best approach”.
The IUA argued that it may be “essential” that “fee rates are increased to reflect the impact of inflation”. However, it said that “there is very little capacity” to increase fees as “the affordability of higher education for students and families is becoming increasingly challenging”.