The Technological Higher Education Association (THEA) offers a qualified welcome for the Higher Education Provisions within Budget 2024. The Technological Sector recognises that Government has been faithful to the oft-stated commitment from Ministers Harris and Collins to reduce the cost of third level education and to help remove that as a barrier to access. The reduction in the student contribution fee along with the restoration of maintenance grants to eligible postgraduate students and including a further €8.1 million investment in the Student Assistance Fund for the 2023/24 academic year are welcome and will assist students and their families and especially in a time of economic pressure.
The dedicated sum of €35 million to address government-controlled pay shortfalls along with an increase to the baseline is also acknowledged and will mean that the €60m in core funding can be utilized constructively.
The recognition from Minister Donohoe that investing in further and higher education is investment in innovation, creativity, and our future, is especially welcome. There is recognition and acceptance that such investment is, in the minister’s own words, an essential component in supporting Ireland as an enterprising and productive economy.
As stated by Dr Joseph Ryan, CEO of THEA: “The qualified welcome relates to the slow pace of progress in relation to the utilization of the National Training Fund. We have been debating this for some considerable time now and the quantum within the NTF is something of an embarrassment and an affront to enterprise who are paying into a pot that cannot be employed as intended. That the Government is willing to put an options paper on the table and with an openness to legislative change, if necessary, is nonetheless welcome, and THEA encourages that this work be undertaken as efficiently as possible in the interests of all.