HEA warns of growing third-level funds crisis
THE PRESSURE on the Government to re-introduce third-level tuition fees has intensified after the Higher Education Authority (HEA) warned of a deepening funding crisis among third level colleges.
In a surprise move, HEA chief executive Tom Boland said there was “no way’’ colleges could continue to rely largely on exchequer funding as they sought to accommodate a record 30 per cent increase in student numbers over the next decade.
With the support of Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn, the HEA is framing proposals on funding for the Department of Education by late summer. The report will consider options, including a return to fees of at least €5,000 per annum, student loans and a graduate tax.
Mr Boland made it clear that the funding issue could no longer be side-stepped. “We have to find a way to sustain and fund higher education,’’ he said.
Third level funding is a highly sensitive issue for Mr Quinn, who promised no additional student fees before last year’s election. In this year’s budget he increased the student registration fee from €2,000 to €2,250. He has also signalled that this will rise to €3,000 by 2015.
The current student registration fee generates about €100 million a year. But last year the Hunt report said the sector needed an additional €500 million per year for the next decade to cope with this record demand.
In a gloomy assessment, the HEA said the quality of higher education would deteriorate rapidly unless the funding crisis was addressed. Ireland has for the first time no college among the top 100 in the world.
Mr Boland also warned that work practices at third level, especially among the 14 institutes of technology, must change. The HEA also announced a series of reviews, to shape a more efficient third level sector with less duplication and more collaboration, including:
An ESRI review to examine how third level provision matches the needs of the economy;
A review by an international panel of experts of the structure of Irish higher education;
A review of teacher training;
A review of third level creative arts and media courses in Dublin, including those at the National College of Art and Design, Dublin Institute of Technology and Dún Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology.