Statement from Dr Joseph Ryan, CEO, Technological Higher Education Association (THEA) on behalf of the presidents of TÚS and the Institutes of Technology
We broadly welcome the announcements in today’s budget for 2022 and look forward to receiving the detail around funding for higher education in the coming days and working with officials and the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation, & Science to ensure that targeted investments are effectively distributed to those in most need.
Our budget 2022 paper, which we submitted to government in August, called for a total investment of €161m in THEA institutions across five key pillars:
- Digitalisation and infrastructure
- Human capital
- Research and Innovation
- Climate; and
- International cooperation.
While we welcome the supports that have been put in place recently to support vulnerable students, we must remind government that the technological higher education institutions support the majority of economically and socially disadvantaged students, according to recent research by the Higher Education Authority (HEA). These students require the most support in order to complete their higher education experience. Mental health issues are one of the biggest challenges of the next half-decade. While much support has been provided to date, our sector still lags behind the traditional university sector in the extent, quality and quantity of mental health supports available to students.
We have estimated a requirement of €12m in student mental health services across the technological higher education sector for 2022.
We are at a key milestone and a moment of great promise in the creation of new technological universities. We have called on government to increase the allocation of recurrent grant funding for research and innovation at this point in time in order to show adequate support for the emerging technological universities. A commitment to increasing the funding year on year in this manner would allow the institutions to commit to multi-annual R&I expenditure in line with their individual needs, using the Recurrent Grant funding to co-fund initiatives where appropriate.
Climate action has become not just an aspiration, but a critically necessary issue for every business and institution. Minister Paschal Donohoe referred to it as the ‘the most critical issue of our era”. We have identified a range of investments that need to take place across campuses, including climate retrofitting and upgrade programme to the building infrastructure in our member institutions.
This past year has seen necessary once-off Covid-support funding which has been much welcomed by all higher education institutions. The need for increased investment in teaching, however, needs to be prioritised as we move towards a post-pandemic recovery of the sector. We have seen great increases in student numbers entering higher education, and these increases in student numbers require corresponding increases in academic and support staff now and into the future. While we welcome the €200m over 2021 and 2022 to strengthen the financial position of universities and provide capacity for extra students, it is clear that the need for a sustainable funding model for higher education has never been more critical.
We welcomed Minister Simon Harris’s commitment to address the overall funding crisis and his stated ambition to publish his review of the report by Peter Cassels ‘Investing in National Ambition: a strategy for funding higher education’ (https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/ef76cd-investing-in-national-ambition-a-strategy-for-funding-higher-educati/). We urge the Minister to publish this report as promised in the coming weeks and look forward to working with his team to bring about a funding model that can grow with the sector and sustain our world class higher education system into the future.
For further information please contact:
Róisín O’Connell, Head of Communications, THEA: (087) 9193333
For the full THEA Budget 2022 submission click here: contentFiles/THEA_Budget2022_Submission.pdf
Note to editors: The Technological Higher Education Association (THEA) is the representative advocacy body for the Institutes of Technology and TúS (Technological University of the Shannon: Midlands Midwest)