Threats of cuts no way to boost third level

 

Sir, – Dick Ahlstrom is correct (“Funding plan for third level a recipe for disaster”, Science, Innovation, January 25th) in questioning the Department of Education’s proposals to alter the funding arrangements for higher education.

The recent Cassells report on the sector revealed a continuing rapid increase in demand for third-level education, with 60 per cent of school-leavers entering the system in 2015.

It is inappropriate that Government policy should escalate a bias towards Stem (science, technology, engineering and maths) courses, which will inevitably impact on medicine, education and other key areas. Threatening funding cuts if the entire university sector does not adopt such a bias risks quickly creating unintended consequences of dire shortages in other graduate areas.

The overall funding issue is again largely ignored in the latest proposals and the Stem initiatives are cost intensive.

Between 2008 and 2012 recurrent grant allocations to universities and colleges fell by 25 per cent.

Since 2012, the public spend per third-level student has remained below that for second level, with no real sign of corrective budgetary policies by the current Government.

A working group comprising Revenue, the Department of Finance and third-level sector interests should immediately be established to address new mechanisms to increase State funding for our universities.

As previously proposed by the Irish Federation of University Teachers, making use of the Apple corporation tax windfall would be a good place to start the debate. – Yours, etc,

JOAN DONEGAN,

General Secretary,

Irish Federation

of University Teachers,

Merrion Square,

Dublin 2.