Higher Education Institutions are set to be given an extra €185 million in 2021 through extra supports in Budget 2021, the Human Capital Initiative (HCI) and the National Development Plan (NDP).

Director General of the Irish Universities Association (IUA), Jim Miley, stated that “the right investments now in our university system will be a key catalyst to drive the recovery. Ireland can only make a successful recovery if we invest now in our talent and innovation capacity.”

In an official statement on October 13th, the IUA expressed their approval of the €50 million more provided for Higher Education in Budget 2021. This, alongside ongoing funding for 5,000 extra places are “welcome features” of next year’s Budget.

They, however, were of the opinion that the Budget was a missed opportunity by the Government to support green initiatives and the move to developing sustainable campuses. UCD Students’ Union Environmental Campaign’s Co-ordinator Niamh Gurrin agreed with this stance, stating that “so much more needs doing [in terms of campuses]” and that structures need to be put in place to enable these behavioural changes – something which is not present in UCD.

The IUA criticised Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris for not taking a more definitive step in this Budget to address underlying funding deficiencies.

Harris had pledged to “settle the funding model” and address the structural deficits in higher education funding following his provision of a Covid funding package to the sector in July.  

The IUA state that endorsing their proposals to establish a multi-annual Green Campus Infrastructure Fund to retro-fit outdated carbon negative buildings would have provided a real impetus toward this environmental goal which was not reflected in the Budget, referring to the budget as a “missed opportunity for real change.”

Gurrin supported the IUA’s comments, agreeing that better structures need to be put in place. She outlined three key areas for development: the carbon neutrality and retrofitting of outdated buildings, spaces for student clothes exchanges, and the implementation of segregated waste bins across campus.

The other €135 million provided is made up of €15 million from the NDP for upgrade works and equipment, and €120 million for skills development provided by the National Training Fund, €60 million of which is attributable to the 5-year HCI programme which began in 2020.

Oisín Magfhógartaigh – Reporter