Future sustainability of Irish higher education to be scrutinized in EU review

Conor Breslin

Image Credit: Fine Gael

The Minister for Education and Skills Joe McHugh TD has announced that a contract has been awarded by the Structural Reform Support Service (SRSS) of the European Commission for an economic review to be conducted on increasing future sustainability of higher and further education provision in Ireland.

While building on the Cassells Expert Group report from 2016 and following on consultation with the Oireachtas committee on Education, the SRSS review will undertake an economic evaluation of the future funding options for higher education in Ireland.

A key focus will be finding the correct balance between higher education and other options to ensure learners have the right skills to be successful in the future jobs and careers.

Awarding of this EU contract follows a period of close engagement with the SRSS of the European Commission, which provides support to all EU countries for their institutional, administrative and growth-enhancing reforms. This process involved the submission of a formal application for support to the SRSS, finalisation of the terms of reference for the review and awaiting the results of the EU Commission’s procurement process to award the contract for the review.

“This review of our third level sector is a vital piece of work. Support from the SRSS following a highly competitive selection demonstrates the value of the study, not only for Ireland but across the wider EU landscape,” said Minister McHugh.

Following a meeting between representatives of the Department and the successful consortium following the award of the contract, it is expected that work on the review will commence soon as well as a report made available to the Minister.

Speaking to a member of the DCU PR sector, he described the contract for the economic review as great in the development not only in our University but for all third level institutions across Ireland as a way of progressing

In terms of investment in higher education, the Department has secured an additional allocation of €153 million for higher and further education and training in 2020.  This significant level of investment will be used to respond to demographic pressures to the government and also underpin a range of initiatives in the higher education sector, including key enhancements for teaching and learning, as well as providing skills-enhancing opportunities for individuals, sectors and regions most affected by the issue of Brexit.

This funding builds on progress made in previous budgets. Overall the planned higher education spend has increased by 25% over the past four years. At €1.88bn, 2020 will see the highest level to date of spend on higher education in a single year.  

Conor Breslin

Image Credit: Fine Gael