Higher education funding crisis: not just in Ireland

As we prepare for what is universally expected to be bad news for higher education in the coming Budget/Book of Estimates, we may or may not find consolation in the fact that there are similar fears in England. Last Friday Sir Alan Langlands, chief executive of the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), suggested that a ‘golden age’ for university funding and development was now coming to an end, and that universities in England were ‘going to see a rebalancing of financial contributions to higher education from the tax payer, from students, from graduates and from employers.’ From the context of the story, I gather that ‘rebalancing’ does not mean a redistribution of the same funding between these different sources, but rather an overall (and perhaps severe) reduction.

In Ireland as in the UK, we shall have to ask some fundamental questions; but the most obvious one seems to me to be whether we can continue to aim for significant increases in higher education participation rates in these circumstances. This latter question is also tied up with the issue of whether we can aim to maintain a position in the global rankings if we continue to pursue volume growth but without resources. Even if we feel that the rankings don’t matter, we need to remember that on the whole they reflect quality-driven performance indicators, so that the implication of sliding down the tables is that quality is eroding.

I personally support the highest possible participation levels, subject to adequate entry qualifications; but it may realistically not be possible to continue with that agenda for now.

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4 Comments on “Higher education funding crisis: not just in Ireland”

  1. Vincent Says:

    In the past the vast majority that graduated went to work as clergymen in various parts of the world. There was a standard and mostly this was surpassed by some distance.
    Nowadays, with secularisation that route has been halted. Therefore what we need is when a Student of Laws sits the New York Bar-or any other Bar- exams his mark along with every Irish persons mark are in the top 5%. And if this means that we hire from the States then well and good. If it meant that we do not teach Irish Law, then so be it. The same 5% for the UK, all the EU, and I see no reason why China should be kept out.
    By far the vast majority that attend have absolutely no interest it what they are Reading, it is only a means to an end. Therefore there is little point in attempting to ram the traditional Liberal Arts when they would be better off getting a license for a mechanical excavator or other trades. But whatever License, it has to be the best.
    As for myself, I could not care less about the entry requirements. If the person can read, then they will be fine. It is the exit, that matters.

  2. Vincent Says:

    Sir Alan Langlands is his rejigging of the finance has missed the group which receive most, those Companies and Corporations that hire the Graduate.

  3. Vincent Says:

    Looking at the numbers from HefcE the total recurrent grant is £6.5b, the same figure for Ireland from the dept of Finance www, is E1.3b. rev2009rev.pdf. page 114.

  4. kevin denny Says:

    Grim times ahead indeed with the Budget/McCarthy etc. I wonder ‘though can we not let a good crisis go to waste? By that mean, there is in my view lots of waste & inefficiency in higher education and if (& its a big if) the present funding situation was an opportunity to clear out some of that inefficiency then maybe some good would be done.
    A similar argument was about the hammering that UK industry experienced in the early 1980s – actually I (& others) published papers with some evidence of it or indeed about post-war German recovery.
    I am somewhat skeptical about the drive for greater participation because I think quality is likely to suffer: quantity is so much easier to measure. That is not to say that there aren’t particular populations that aren’t under-represented and these need to be addressed in a targeted fashion.


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