Budget 2019 higher education: ‘No burning house, but we can smell the smoke’

Ireland’s representatives of students and universities have not held back in their displeasure with news of what the country’s third-level institutions have been allocated as part of Budget 2019.

In his speech to the Dáil, Minister for Finance Paschal Donohue, TD, said that the Government will allocate a total of €10.8bn to the Department of Education and Skills, with €150m being allocated to higher education for the year.

The Government said 2019’s allocation will support 3,500 additional undergraduate places and also announced the creation of a ring-fenced Human Capital Initiative worth €300m between 2020 and 2024 for increased investment in higher education courses.

‘A discussion document that never really got discussed’

Cahill went on to highlight that the amount is nowhere near the recommended funding allocation published as part of the Cassells report, a Government document commissioned to investigate how much funding would be needed to run an efficient third-level education system.

Published more than two years ago, the report called for €600m in additional funding each year to cover costs over a period of five years, expanded to €1bn by 2030.

This, it said, would allow for “an improvement in student:staff ratios, better engagement with students, and improved support services for teachers and students”.

Cahill said: “The [Cassells report] was a discussion document that never really got discussed. Student loans are clearly not the answer, but public investment is needed and it hasn’t been made by the Government.”

At a demonstration outside of Dáil Éireann this morning (9 October), Cahill and the USI called for a greater allocation of funds to increase the amount given as part of the Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI) grant, and greater access to affordable accommodation.

At the time, Cahill was quoted as saying: “The Government has a choice to make in this Budget: they can either squirrel away public money for the benefit of those in power, or they can invest in the future of their people.”

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