Sinn Féin spokesperson on Further and Higher Education Rose Conway-Walsh TD has accused the government of a “lack of vision for third-level education”, as core funding issues remain unaddressed.
Teachta Conway-Walsh said:
“When a dedicated Department was set up for Further and Higher Education after the last general election, there was hope in the sector that there would be a step-change to end a decade of underinvestment.
“Unfortunately, the only thing the higher education sector received in Budget 2022 were grand announcements and misleading spending figures. The funding, which will only allow colleges to keep up with higher student numbers, meaning they won’t have to take on more debt – isn’t good enough.
“Despite my calls, the Minister has delayed the publication of the findings of the independent consultants appointed by the EU Commission to assess the Cassells report in advance of this Budget.
“The reason for the delaying the publication is the findings would expose just how inadequate this budget in terms of addressing the chronic underfunding in the higher education sector.
“In the words of the Irish Universities association, there is ‘no extra investment in teaching or research activities in 2022’.
“The competitiveness of the economy relies on a higher education work force. We need to get out of austerity mode and begin investing in third-level education as a vital public good and an economic driver.
“Colleges receive roughly 50% less funding per student today than they did in 2008. 72% less when we account for inflation.
“This also has serious implications for research and development. The most recent figures show the government has spent less on R&D as a percentage of GDP and public expenditure every year since Fine Gael came into power in 2011. Leaving us far below the EU average.
“Recurrent Core and capital funding are essential if we want both a quality education system and competitive levels of investment in research and development.
“Sinn Féin would allocate €180 million in recurrent core funding. This would equate to €63 million increase in public investment in R&D.”