While a major investment in five higher education projects has been welcomed, there is an ongoing need to increase core funding to the third-level sector, the Irish Universities Association (IUA) warn.
As first revealed by the Irish Examiner, University College Cork (UCC) is set to receive €25m approved by the Department of Education through Project Ireland 2040 towards the development of its new business school in the heart of Cork City.
The project, earmarked for development at the Trinity Quarter site on South Terrace, is among four others set to share €96.6m in funding through the Project Ireland 2040.
The €106m Cork University Business School (CUBS), which will house 4,000-students and up to 200 staff, is expected to provide a significant boost to the city centre.
Other projects to receive funding through Project 2040 include €15m for NUI Galway’s €39m Learning Commons project and a further €25m towards Maynooth University’s €57m Technology Society and Innovation Building.
IT Sligo is also to receive €6.6m towards its €18.6m central campus extension project and a further €25m will also be given to University College Dublin (UCD) for its €190m Future Campus project.
An IUA spokesperson said: “We very much welcome the announcement from the Department of Education on capital funding made (on Thursday) and are delighted that out of 5 winning projects 4 were our universities.
"However there is an ongoing need across all seven of our universities for an increase in capital and core funding.”
Despite significant growth in student numbers in recent years, universities have seen an “inadequate” increase in core funding to manage this, the spokesperson added: “Instead, direct State funding per student is 43% lower resulting in declining student-staff ratios.
This decline in funding has directly impacted Ireland’s universities fall in international rankings.
A minimum of €117m as part of Budget 2020 is needed to fund an increased student intake, address quality and access issues and to meet the known cost increases for national pay rounds, according to the IUA.
Education Minister, Joe McHugh, said this funding will have an impact on the third-level sector’s ability to cater for significant enrolment increases over the next decade: “These projects and new buildings will have an important regional and national impact but they will also enhance the competitiveness of Ireland’s higher education system on the international stage.”