Ibec, the group that represents Irish business, has welcomed commitments in the Action Plan for Education 2019 to strengthen the apprenticeship system, promote lifelong learning and reform how the employer-financed National Training Fund is spent. However, it warns that Plan’s ambitions for higher education and research are undermined by the Government’s ongoing failure to address under-investment in the third-level sector.
Tony Donohoe, Ibec head of education and social policy, said: “The commitments to improve the quantity and quality of skills development and research in our universities and institutes of technology are welcome. But it is unclear how these will be funded. The Plan signals yet further analysis of higher education funding, this time by the European Commission. It is over four years since the Expert Group on Future Funding for Higher Education published authoritative analysis on this and we do not need more reports to highlight the impact of significant under-investment over the last decade.
“Ireland spends 17 per cent less per third level student than the EU average. This lack of investment does not match or support the national ambitions to be a global education and innovation leader. Ibec has suggested that a proportion of surging corporate tax revenues should be allocated to critical national infrastructure such as higher education and research. This investment, combined with a more sustainable funding model, is urgently required if we hope to translate policy rhetoric into a reality.”