Funding undergraduate education

 

Sir, – On September 7th, two events occurred in Dublin, barely a kilometre apart, that demonstrate the policy inconsistency that besets Irish higher education.

At the Royal Irish Academy, Maynooth University convened a seminar on the funding of undergraduate education, with a focus on income-contingent loans. The 100 or so participants heard the views of a panel that included the sole public representative in the room, Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin.

At Dublin Castle, Science Foundation Ireland convened a gathering to announce four new research centres in universities and institutes of technology with public investment of €74 million and a further €40 million from industry. The 300 or so audience heard contributions from the Taoiseach, the Minister for Enterprise and Innovation and the Minister for Research and Development.

The research in our higher education institutions, funded by taxpayers through Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), is truly a matter for celebration and a great credit to all concerned.

Yet for more than a decade we have been talking about the key issue for both undergraduate education and research – how do we sustainably fund undergraduate education? And we are no nearer a solution, and all the while the system gradually degrades and demand for places increases. A solution will not come easy. It requires leadership from Government, but also a constructive Opposition that, in the public interest, eschews grandstanding.

The Taoiseach said of the research investment, “This in turn helps to create high-value jobs and drives economic growth and regional development. The SFI Research Centres show the value of investing in today, so we can imagine the world of the future.” Hear, hear! And by the way, the same goes, and even more so, for investment in undergraduates.

How about it, Taoiseach? – Yours, etc,

TOM BOLAND,

(Former chief executive,

Higher Education

Authority),

BH Associates,

Dublin 8.