Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Budget update

Ferdinand has posted on the Irish Government's Budget announcements on his blog this evening. He doesn't give the details, but shares his fears of the implications. For those who want to see what the plans are the specific references to Higher Education in the Minister's statement today include the following.
  • The current estimates provision for higher education is €1,844m, compared with a 2008 estimate of €1,887m. The estimate allows for an increase in the student registration charge from €900 to up to €1,500 in individual institutions for the academic year 2009/2010. Third-level students entitled to a student support grant will remain exempt from paying the student registration charge.
  • The estimates provision will require restrictions in the implementation of approved projects under the Strategic Innovation Fund and will involve the deferral of planned 2009 increases in medical education places. It will also involve restrictions in the volume of awards made by the two Research Councils (Irish Research Council for Science, Engineering and Technology and Irish Research Council for Humanities and Social Sciences).
  • There is no provision for increases in student maintenance grants.
  • The Government decided in July 2008 that the payroll costs across Government organisations should be reduced by 3pc in 2009 and other restrictions should apply in order to effect cost savings in consultancy, advertising and other administrative areas. This is the background to some of the reductions applying in the Education Estimates for 2009. The estimates provisions under a range of headings will require careful management over the course of the year with expenditure control measures across all areas and possible further tightening measures may be necessary as the year progresses.
  • The National Qualifications Authority of Ireland, HETAC and FETAC will be amalgamated. The new organisation will also take responsibility for the external quality assurance review of the universities - a function currently performed by the Irish Universities Quality Board and the Higher Education Authority. In seeking to ensure a coherent approach to qualifications and quality assurance, there will also be discussions with the National University of Ireland around the possibility of including some of the related functions of the NUI in the new organisation
Given that the IUQB is in the middle of its Annual Conference, the latter item might come as a bit of a blow to them. Additionally, the theme of the event is "Fourth Level Ireland" and with cuts to the State funding agencies (IRCSET and IRCHSS) resulting in a decrease in 'volume of awards', then the government target of doubling PhD graduates by 2013, presumably is also a thing of the past despite all the investment, restructuring and development of programmes that have taken place over the past couple of years to facilitate this (funded also by SIF, by the way).

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