Fine Gael have promised to invest €500 million in colleges and universities across the country, as part of an effort to upgrade facilities on campuses.
The investment, which will be distributed across institutions based on need, will be taken from the National Training Fund. According to their manifesto, more money will be allocated “if prudent to do so”.
They have also promised to put a freeze on student contribution fees, leaving them at €3000 a year.
“The freeze, in my view, is a good thing because we can level things out for the next three years and after that we can revisit it,” said Gary O’Donovan, the treasurer for DCU’s branch of Young Fine Gael.
The SUSI grant is also being looked at, with Fine Gael promising a five per cent increase on the income threshold required to receive the grant. They have also promised to keep the grant levels under regular review.
As part of their manifesto, Fine Gael have promised to work on creating new technological universities (TUs) as well as developing existing ones, such as Technological University Dublin (TUD).
Four new TUs are currently in the planning stages, which are: Munster TU, TU of the South East, Connacht Ulster Alliance and Athlone Limerick TU.
They have placed $90 million in funding to help set up these new TUs, with a particular focus on getting the TU of the South East up and running as soon as possible. This TU will consist of both IT Carlow and Waterford IT.
Student accommodation is also on the agenda, with Fine Gael promising to create 800 additional student beds each year. According to O’Donovan, Fine Gael will be putting pressure on universities to build additional on campus accommodation.
Fine Gael have also promised to expand the National Plan for Equity of Access to Higher Education. The plan, which is put forward to increase diversity in higher education institutions, will focus on improving access for members of the Travelling Community as well as people with intellectual disabilities.
Increasing Irish student participation in the Erasmus+ programme is also included in Fine Gael’s manifesto, with the party wanting to work with institutions within the EU to form partnerships with Irish colleges and universities.
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