'Absolutely critical' that Government invest in higher education

'Absolutely critical' that Government invest in higher education

The options paper published by the Department of Higher Education on Monday looks at how to deal with the increased cost of living.

The director general of the Irish Universities Association, Jim Miley has warned that it is “absolutely critical” for the Government to invest in education as it remains the “calling card” for the economy.

Mr Miley was commenting on the options paper published by the Department of Higher Education on Monday on how to deal with the increased cost of living.

Reductions in student registration fees and an increase in grants for third-level students were among the options included.

However, Mr Miley cautioned that the Government needed to address “both sides of the problem.”

Reducing registration fees or increasing grants for students would mean more students entering a system that was already underfunded.

The Irish higher education system was “out of kilter”, he said.

The student-teacher ratio in Ireland was 20:1 while it is 15:1 in the rest of Europe.

“Education is all about people. Most of the cost goes to staff.” 

More funding for colleges themselves was required to maintain “the knowledge economy” which was lauded by the IDA, he told Newstalk Breakfast.

“The way to do that is to invest in education.” Education needed to be made affordable and accessible.

Among the proposals which are costed in the options paper are:

  • Adjusting income thresholds to qualify for the standard rate of student grant to take account of changes in real incomes over time. 
  • The report finds that increasing the threshold by €250 would cost the State €0.9m while on the upper limit an increase of €1,000 in the threshold would cost €3.7m and would see 4,700 extra students qualify for supports;
  • Reducing the qualifying distance to avail of the non-adjacent maintenance grant from 30km to 24km. This would cost an estimated €6m each year;
  • Increasing the post-graduate maintenance grant rates to the same level as the supports provided to undergraduates across all bands. This change would cost €8.6m each year.

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