Funding for third-level colleges should be linked to performance targets, a new report being published today will recommend.
An expert group on higher education will propose that institutions seeking additional funding be assessed on access rates for disadvantaged groups, flexible learning and the development of “innovative responses” to skills gaps.
The group, chaired by Peter Cassells, was established to develop a long-term financial strategy for the sector.
Targets being considered to accompany future funding include:
The proposed loan scheme would see undergraduate tuition costs increasing to €4,000 a year - up from the current €3,000 annual contribution charge - or €16,000 for a four-year course.
Students would have the option of repaying loans immediately or after graduation, once their income reaches a certain level.
Minister for Education Richard Bruton will outline details of the plan at the launch of the report this morning.
In a statement, he said the higher education sector is “at the heart of delivering on massive social and economic challenges”.
These, he said, include “better life opportunities for people from disadvantaged areas, training the skilled workers needed for a growing economy, and delivering major research and innovation projects to help solve the big problems of our time”.
“There are no easy solutions here but I believe that if we are to prosper and grow as a society and an economy we must build a consensus and make some big decisions in this area,” Mr Bruton said.
“‘Do nothing’ would be to fail future generations. I look forward to discussing these issues with colleagues in the Oireachtas and other stakeholders and building a plan that can deliver on our goals in this area."
The Irish Federation of University Teachers has meanwhile called for increased direct government funding for colleges, pointing to increased student numbers and worsening student-staff ratios.
“This report should serve as a major wake-up call to government and the political system generally that education funding can no longer be ignored," the union said.
“Countries like France, Austria and Sweden and already reversing education cuts introduced during the recession. The Department of Education here should do the same."