Higher education funding crisis will ‘damage’ students

A university president has warned that any more delays in solving the funding crisis in higher education will damage thousands of students.

As plans for structural reforms of the sector come under the spotlight in plans published by the Higher Education Authority this week, the biggest issue facing college chiefs remains their dwindling budgets, as student numbers continue to reach record levels. The HEA told Education Minister Ruairi Quinn in a document on funding the system before Christmas that the quality of third-level education will continue to suffer unless almost €500 million a year is invested.

Mr Quinn announced in December’s budget that student fees would rise to €2,250 this year and has said more recently that they will probably reach €3,000 in the next few years.

National University of Ireland Maynooth (NUIM) president Professor Philip Nolan said it is critical that the sector is funded correctly, either from public or private sources. The most likely source of increased private funding would be students, who have paid tuition for qualifications up to honours degree level since the mid-1990s.

Prof Nolan said in his inaugural address at NUIM that equivocation on this issue had the potential to do lasting damage to Irish education and its students.

“We are foolish to imagine that failure to adequately and decisively provide for higher education will result in anything other than an inevitable mediocrity to the detriment of generations of students,” he said.

The Government, employers and others continue to place emphasis on developing graduates in science and engineering to fuel job growth, but Prof Nolan said short-term gains from a narrow focus would not be sustainable.


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