The former president of University College Dublin has called for immediate action to address a 'national crisis' ahead of Brexit.
Now the Vice-Chancellor and President of the University of Bristol, Hugh Brady spoke at the British Irish Chamber of Commerce earlier today, insisting that the "state of Ireland's higher education and research system should be viewed as a national crisis."
He said: "In 2012, the UK grasped the nettle of not only the quantum of funding required but also the balance between public and private funding of higher education through the introduction of a student loan system.
"Ireland went in exact opposite direction – major cuts in state funding per student; an unwillingness to grasp the nettle of tuition fees or loans to fill the gap; significant erosion of its research funding base; and significant shackling of university autonomy."
With regards to Brexit, Mr Brady said he hoped Ireland would "work with the UK, deal or no-deal, to ensure that there is alignment of funding programmes to promote collaborative research".
Ireland continues to sit on its hands – ignoring yet another in a long line of reports (the Cassells Report) calling for investment in higher education and, if what I read in the media is accurate, almost celebrating this inaction as if it is a sensible policy response.
The professor welcomed Michael Martin's proposal to establish a new Department of Higher Education and Research as an "important signal of intent provided, of course, that its Minister has equal status with others at the cabinet table".
Director of the Irish Universities Association Jim Miley responded to Mr Brady's comments, saying: “Given President and Vice-Chancellor Brady’s experience in both the Irish and UK university systems his comments should act as a wake-up call for all Irish politicians on the continued under investment in Irish universities.
"Hugh Brady set out in very stark terms the comparisons between the level of investment in Irish and UK universities. For example he revealed that by a conservative estimate the University of Bristol probably receives at least 25% more funding per student than UCD or Trinity.
"He went on to highlight that the University of Bristol alone secured more European Research Council grants this year than all of the Irish universities put together.
As the UK Government invests in its universities in the face of Brexit uncertainty, I would urge the Irish government to do the same and use next week’s budget as the first opportunity to act.”