Budget 2012

Higher Education

2% reduction in core funding for higher education bodies in both 2012
and 2013, a further 1% reduction in both 2014 and in 2015, in addition
to adjustment for increase in student contribution.

Increase the current €2,000 student contribution by €250 in 2012 and
review progress in cost-recovery in the third level sector in line with
EU/IMF commitments

Termination of Technological Sector research programme
Student Support & Access

Amend grants system for post-graduate studies by paying fees only (no
maintenance grant) for special rate students, and providing a €2,000
fee contribution grant to a further 4,000 students. Measures apply to
new entrants only, from 2012. Existing grant-holders will be unaffected.

3% reduction in rate of student maintenance grant from 2012.

Introduction from 2013 of capital asset test.

Reduce allocation to fund for Students with Disabilities by 20%
(demand driven)

Skills, Further & Adult Education

Reduction in capitation grants across a range of further and adult
education courses (e.g. Post Leaving Certificate, Vocational Training
Opportunities Scheme, Youthreach, Back to Education Initiative, Adult
Literacy) by 2% in each 2012 and 2013 and a further 1% in both 2014
and 2015

Reduction to €40 in allowances paid to 16-17 year olds on Youthreach,
Community Training Centres and FAS courses from 2012
Other Savings

A range of savings across a number of other programme areas
including savings from impact of earlier policy measures, savings from
minor policy adjustments, administration efficiencies, reviewing
allowances, savings from rationalisation of VEC structures, reducing the
overall number from 33 to 16.
School Transport

When account is taken of the above savings measures the Department of Education & Skills will
need to identify further savings of close to €70 million in 2013 and 2014 (cumulative €138
million) in order to remain within the expenditure ceilings set for those years.

USI Welcomes Labour’s Commitment to Scrapping PLC Reg Fee and Reducing Student Service Charge

Press Release 

17th February 2011

 For immediate release:


USI Welcomes Labour’s Commitment to Scrapping PLC Reg Fee and Reducing Student Service Charge

The Union of Students in Ireland has welcomed the Labour Party’s commitment to abolish the €200 registration fee for Post Leaving Certificate courses, and to reducing the student services charge back to €1,500, if they are in Government after the election.

The current Government renamed the Student Services Charge to Student Contribution and increased it by €500 in Budget 2011 thus re-introducing third level fees by the back door. This decision represented a retrograde step for Irish education, with the potential of denying thousands of students in Ireland access to a third level education.

At a time when employment prospects are bleak, the incoming Government needs to increase access to education to enable young people to gain the skills necessary to build a better life for themselves and to contribute to the recovery of Ireland’s economy.

The elimination of the €200 registration fee for PLC courses by the newly elected Government would make further education a real prospect for thousands of potential students nationwide. It would also encourage more people to acquire further training and skills. 

USI is committed to fighting for the preservation of Ireland’s Higher Education system, so that people from all backgrounds have the opportunity to attend Third Level in the future. 

USI President, Gary Redmond, said:

“It is vital that the future Government makes Higher Education, and the up-skilling of the people of Ireland, a priority. The increase to student registration fees made in last year’s Budget was a nonsensical decision, which put third level education beyond the reach of thousands of vulnerable and struggling families across Ireland.

At a time when Ireland’s economy is in dire straits, we must not erect any more barriers to Higher Education for the disadvantaged families nationwide. We must invest in the future of the country, and that means investing in education.” 


Hunt fails to deliver on great expectations

Minister for Education Mary Coughlan and Dr Colin HuntPhotograph: David Sleator


LEFTFIELD: There are some valuable recommendations, but the National Strategy for Higher Education is sorely lacking in a coherent, accessible vision, writes FERDINAND VON PRONDZYNSKI 

IT SEEMS LIKE HALF a lifetime ago since Mary Hanafin, then minister for education and science, announced early in 2008 that she was thinking of setting up a strategic review of higher education. A year or so later, in February 2009, another minister for education, Batt O’Keeffe, established the strategy group chaired by Dr Colin Hunt, and gave them until Christmas of that year to report.

Two Christmases and another minister later, Mary Coughlan launched the final report last week, before confirming that it will take at least one more Minister to begin the implementation (or not) of many of its key findings. By the time this is over, there will have been more ministers involved in this process than the strategy group had members.

The body of the report runs to 122 pages, with another few added for appendices, and a rather curious page headed “implementation” that contains just two paragraphs reading more like a philosophical exhortation than a plan.

After an executive summary and some scene setting, the body of the report is split into two parts.

The first of these addresses what it calls the “mission” of higher education, by which it means the actual educational, research and outreach activities of universities and colleges.

The second part considers “governance, structure and funding”. It seems to me that the real focus of the report is on the second part. Ironically, the first part contains some findings and recommendations of real value, while the second part is disappointing.

For the past two or so years we had been told repeatedly by government that the Hunt report would provide a mission and direction for higher education, and so it was logical that one would look to it first to provide a clear strategic vision. As some early reviews of the report have already pointed out, this is where the problems start. The report does have a page headed The Vision for Higher Education in Ireland , but it is very hard to discern anything very original in it. It is really just saying that higher education will do lots of good things in an excellent manner; it is very much motherhood and apple pie, rather than inspired insights into pedagogy or scholarship, or even what society expects or needs in this changing world from an academic community.

Nevertheless, the “higher level objectives” that follow do reveal something of the group’s approach. Taken together, these present a picture of a higher education system that needs to be more “coherent” and “accountable” and work to national policy objectives. In other words, the strategy group focused on the governance and strategic coordination of the system rather than its intellectual value.

As might have been expected, much of the early public attention has been on what the Hunt group has said about funding and tuition fees. In summary, it confirms that significant additional resources will be needed to ensure sustainability for the sector at a time of a serious growth in capacity; and it recommends that student contributions will need to form part of the solution to this problem as the taxpayer cannot afford to pay the bill alone.

However, I don’t regard this as a significant part of the report, because, frankly, this will be a matter for the political system after the general election. Indeed, the group recognises that a separate process must take place to take the funding issue further. What Hunt says will serve to confirm what lots of others have said before, but it won’t of itself change anything.

So what is significant in the report? On the positive side, I think there are valuable recommendations in the chapter on teaching and learning. I would in particular support the idea that the student voice needs to be heard more in course planning and, critically, evaluation. I would also back the group in its views and recommendations on the first-year student experience, a period during which a student’s potential is greatest but the risk of drop-out is also higher.

I am far less persuaded by the group’s comments and recommendations on governance and structure. Yes, there are some recommendations that make sense, but overall the main thrust of this part of the report is that the universities and colleges need to be rationalised and controlled to a greater extent, aligning with a government- determined higher education focus applied to institutions by the HEA. The group affirms institutional autonomy, but then makes it clear that it understands autonomy to relate to freedom of managerial action rather than strategic decision-making.

In adopting this view, it is going against all the available evidence. Right now the German government, for example, is significantly increasing strategic autonomy for its universities, taking the view that the German underperformance in global rankings is connected with a lack of strategic autonomy for individual universities. I would not deny that the group’s concerns on the cohesion of the sector have some merit, but the solution to this is not a new layer of bureaucratisation.

So, what do I think of the Hunt report? Well, it does have valuable recommendations and some interesting insights. But if its role was to create a coherent and accessible vision that will drive both government and higher education institutions and allow Ireland to be recognised as a centre of academic and scholarly excellence, then I don’t believe it has fully met expectations.

There is more work to be done.

Ferdinand von Prondzynski is a former president of DCU.

The Irish Times – Tuesday, January 18, 2011

USI Calls on Government to Protect Education in Pre-Budget Submission

USI Calls on Government to Protect Education in Pre-Budget Submission

The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) launched its pre-Budget submission, entitled “Ireland’s Future Starts Here”, today (October 22nd).

The major focus of the submission is USI’s call on the Government to protect Higher Education in December’s budget.

In its submission, USI highlights the importance of capping the Student Services Charge (Registration Fee), which has already increased by 689% percent, from €190 to €1500, since its inception.

At the beginning of the last academic year the Student Services Charge was increased by €600, directly putting additional financial pressure on students and their families. USI is very concerned that any additional increase in the Registration Fee will result in huge numbers of students being forced out of education.

USI also emphasises the importance of protecting the student maintenance grant from any further cuts. Thousands of students are heavily reliant on financial assistance in the current downturn, and additional cuts over the 5% announced in Budget 2010 would simply end their Third Level education.

The national students’ union has also urged the Government to allocate an extra €1.2 million to the Student Assistance Fund.

This €5 million fund is co-founded by the exchequer and the European Social Fund. The fund provides a lifeline to students most at risk of dropping out of college for financial reasons: students from single parent families, those from traditionally under-represented groups like mature students, students with disabilities and access students.

USI has also renewed its call on the Government to implement a graduate internship programme. Thousands of graduates are now unemployed and being forced to move abroad in search of work in the current recession.

It is vital that we take measures to keep our graduates in Ireland and utilise their skills in re-igniting the economy.

USI is urging the Government to seriously consider the education and future of thousands of young people in Ireland when drawing up December’s Budget.

USI President, Gary Redmond, said:

“Over the last number of months there have been persistent rumours of a doubling of the Student Service Charge to €3000 in the Budget. Despite persistent calls from USI the Minister for Education has revised to rule out a huge hike in the Registration Fee. Many students are already struggling to pay the current fee of €1500, so any further hike will simply cut short their Third Level education. It will also prevent thousands of other disadvantaged people from entering college in the future.

Similarly, any reductions to the student maintenance grant would only render Higher Education inaccessible to thousands of people in Ireland. Furthermore, many students, who are utterly dependent on the grant, will be forced to drop out of college.

Almost 91,000 high-skilled graduates are now unemployed and considering leaving Ireland for work. How can we restore our economy while our graduates are emigrating to find jobs? Ireland needs their skills and training to pull this country out of the recession.

We are the future of the Irish nation. We are the taxpayers of tomorrow. We are calling on the Government to Protect Education in the upcoming Budget to allow Ireland to continue to produce world-class graduates who will reignite the smart economy.”





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