Further Education Colleges make call for funding after widespread fall in university rankings

Further Education Colleges expressed their need for extra funding after a month which saw Irish universities suffer a fall in world rankings.

Ireland’s universities came out poorly in the QS World University rankings released earlier this month, while UCD slipped 176 places in the Times Higher Education rankings, released last week.

Mike Jennings, the general secretary of the Irish Federation Teachers’ Union, has since called on the government to increase spending on higher education.

€200m has been cut from higher education since the recession, but Further Education (FE) colleges have highlighted the fact that they too have suffered major cuts and staff losses.

Unlike universities, FE colleges rely solely on government funding, with courses becoming increasingly more popular, being recognised by employers and students as an alternative gateway into higher education.

Many of the 22,000 FE courses available, including hairdressing and animal grooming, are not offered in higher education. Despite this, some economists have argued against their value. Brian Lucey, economist and professor at Trinity College Dublin, disagrees with the idea that funding should be distributed equally to all institutions within the Irish education sector.

“The Irish system is that everybody gets something, and that’s fine, that’s egalitarian. But if we truly want world-class education… then you’re not going to do it by spreading small dollops across every single sector. You’re going to have to pick some winners,” said Lucey.

Rory O’Sullivan, who has worked in Further Education colleges for thirty-two years, offered a contrasting view.

“I’m sick to my back teeth of economists making comments like that, when the bulk of the labour market is made up of sub-degree level employees,” O’Sullivan said speaking to thejournal.ie

He continued that if Further Education received more funding, it would be used to increase staff numbers and restructure FE colleges – taking them out of the post-primary school structure they are in.

Mike Jennings agreed that funding is needed throughout the entire Irish education sector and said that it is not an either-or issue. He pointed out that it would be unfair to give one university more funding just because it received a higher ranking.

Emer Handly

Image Credit: Darragh Culhane


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