A €15 million grant for the furthering of campus infrastructure in colleges across Ireland has been announced by Simon Harris. The funding will be provided by the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science through the Higher Education Authority (HEA). 

Of the €15 million announced today, €7.5 million will be provided to the technological sector and €7.5 million to universities and other colleges. The grant will be allocated to individual institutions in accordance with a model based primarily on student numbers. UCD, as the biggest university in the country, is set to receive the highest amount of any institution, at €1.494 million.

Harris, speaking about the grant and its intended impact, expressed his hopes to improve learning in 2021: “The semester has been mainly online as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic but we are looking to the new year and how we can give our students and staff the best chance of being back on campus as much as is safely possible.” 

In his statement, Harris stated that the grant will allow colleges to invest in additional works to help protect students and staff throughout the pandemic and to support colleges in upgrading their campuses and equipment for the long term. 

He ended his statement with a message of thanks to both students and staff, whilst also acknowledging the challenges they have faced: “I want to thank the higher education institutions and students for all they have done. The beginning of their academic year has been difficult, to say the least but I hope this additional funding will help with planning and delivering a more positive experience in 2021 and beyond.”

The funding, according to the press release, will aid investment in campus upgrades. It will also facilitate the development of services to support online and blended learning as we go into 2021. It is understood that the funding will advance the development of high-end skills in the technological sector, as well as facilitating building improvements to support access for all, health and safety works, ICT and equipment renewal, and energy-related upgrades.

The 2021 allocation for infrastructure development in the higher and further education sectors (excluding research) is €224.4 million – representing an increase of 53% on the €147 million allocated for 2020. This flexible funding provided through the Devolved Capital Grant complements other large-scale capital investments in the sector. It is hoped that it will help increase student places and transform campus infrastructure well into the future.

Rosie Roberts Kuntz – Assistant News Editor