Expressing concern at the upcoming Government budget on October 10th in her email, the Provost wants the Government to “finally address the chronic underfunding of our sector”.
“We are often told by politicians that they do not hear about the issue ‘on the doorsteps’. This must change. Even if you do not have a vote, your voice matters so please make your voice heard”, she said.
The Provost identified multiple key points that she wanted the College community to “keep in mind when engaging with public services”. These included Ireland’s higher education system’s relative underfunding compared to international standards; the cost of education combined with the deficit in core funding; the “suffering” of students due to the accommodation crisis and over-stretched student services; mounting workloads for staff due to increasing class sizes; ageing infrastructure; and the slow progress made by the Government to address the sector’s €307 annual shortfall identified in 2022.
The Provost included links to the contact page for public representatives as well as a direct link to the contact details for the Minister for Higher Education, Simon Harris. She called on the Government to take “immediate action if they really care about higher education in Ireland and the future of our country”.
The Provost also attached a letter to her email, signed by the eight Irish Universities Association (IUA) Presidents, that was sent to the Government on September 19th. With the subject line “Investing in Skills & Talent and the Capacity of Universities to Support Core National Priorities”, the letter urges the Government to “make a decisive move to build our collective capacity to address the nation’s talent needs and to deliver on the commitments you have made under Funding the Future as well as unlocking the bulging National Training Fund reserves”.
The Government’s Funding the Future options paper, prepared in August 2023 after an in-person Stakeholder Event on May 25th 2023, presents ideas on “reducing the cost of higher education for all students”. The issues raised included the income thresholds and rates of the SUSI student grant scheme, the costs of the student contribution and accommodation and supports for more flexible forms of learning.
The Government’s National Training Fund aims to “support the training of those seeking to take up employment, those in employment seeking to upskill and facilitate lifelong learning”.
The IUA letter calls for the Government to set up a Skills Development Fund from the over €1.5 billion National Training Fund surplus. It says: “All of the major national challenges share the common denominator of urgent and growing skills and talent development needs.” In order to respond to such needs the IUA argue: “We can only do so if the resources are made available to invest in our capacity.” A capacity which they claimed is “stretched to the limit”.
In college’s latest financial report approved on March 23rd 2023, the College’s Chief Financial Officer Peter Reynolds, expressed concerns at Trinity remaining a “globally competitive” University, citing “inflationary pressures” as a significant concern.
In reference to spending, he said: “We will continue to manage our resources prudently and to invest strategically in the University’s infrastructure.”