The Department of Education will look to China and abroad to cope with increased funding cuts placed on Irish universities, prescription Minister for Education Jan O Sullivan tells The College Tribune.

In the midst of the post-Celtic Tiger financial furore, many 3rd level institutions are now facing serious financial obstacles.

Following a massive increase in students partaking in 3rd level education over the past number of years and decreased funding from the Irish government, many universities have now been pushed to run a substantial deficit.

It is now being considered that such severe cuts in funding are causing Irish universities to drop in ratings internationally.

UCD’s president Andrew Deeks this week commented on the drop of two of the country’s top-rated universities, UCD and TCD in the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings.

President Deeks stated that he and others agreed that Irish universities need more funding if they are to be expected to compete with other universities on a world stage.

Speaking further on the issue President Deeks said:

‘It [UCD} is a great university doing very well, given the constraints of this age of austerity. However, if we are to continue to compete with Australian and UK universities, we must ensure that the total money Irish universities receive per student is increased to a level similar to our competitors,’

When questioned over how much longer the universities in Ireland could cope with decreased funding and large deficits, Minister O’Sullivan admitted that the institutions were now at a point where it is becoming increasingly hard to find independent funding.

‘Universities have had to go out and get funding from other sources and they’ve managed to do that effectively, but they really are at a point now where it’s very difficult and I recognize that,’ she told the College Tribune.

The Minister went on to tell the Tribune that she met recently with the heads of all of the universities, the head of the Irish University Association and the HEA and to discuss the pressures universities are under.

In fact Chief Executive of the HEA, Tom Boland has warned ‘There should be no doubt that we are now at the tipping point,’ in relation to the funding crisis.

However, Minister O’Sullivan has admitted that there will be no substantial increase in funding delivered to the universities any time soon.

‘I wouldn’t want to mislead people into thinking that there will be a whole lot of extra money because it’s going to have to go right across the sector in education,’ she commented, indicating that it may be some time before Irish 3rd level institutions feel a release in the pressures they face.

It appears however that Minister feels that there would be some weight behind looking to the Far East for financial help in these troubling economic times, telling the College Tribune that universities have been going ‘around the world and getting international students and making connections,’

She went further and stated that she would be going to China with some of the universities.

“I’m sure UCD will be there in about a month’s time and it is about the international opportunities for education,”

With increasing reliance on a now international sphere for 3rd level funding and the prospect of more homegrown investment for our academic seemingly planted in the far distant future, society is posing the question: how much longer can this go on?

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