Fees and performance targets for third-level funding?

By Anne Sexton - Last update

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Fees, as well as performance targets, for third-level funding may be on the way. Minister for Education Richard Bruton is drawing up plans that would reward or withhold additional funding for third-level colleges depending on performance. Issues under consideration will include a college’s ability to train students to meet the workplace skills gap, as well as their number of students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The minister may reveal his plans after the publication of a much-anticipated report on the future of third-level funding. It is expected to conclude that third-level funding is urgently in need of reform and also that the current state of third-level education threatens Ireland’s social and economic development.

Student numbers should grow by 30 percent over the next eleven years. Therefore, it is believed that the increased demand for third-level education will cost an additional 1 billion euro.

Three options for third-level funding

The draft report on third-level funding suggested three options for third-level funding. These are the free fees system; a student registration fee of €3,000; or a loan system based on income.

The loan system would allow students to study without paying fees upfront. The report also suggests that a middle-income graduate could pay off a student loan of approximately €16,000 over 15 years at rate of around €25 a week. Fianna Fail as well as Sinn Fein are concerned about a loan system for education.

Expected performance targets for third-level funding

The Minister is expected to set out a number of performance targets for third-level colleges. These should include:

  1. Providing 50,000 upskilling and reskilling third-level places over the next five years. These are to meet gaps in the economy as well as support lifelong learning
  2. An increase of 7 percent participation in third-level education by Ireland’s most economically disadvantaged communities
  3. A 25 percent increase in the number studying on a flexible basis, including both online and part-time learning options
  4. A 25 percent increase in the number of students undertaking a work placement or work based projects
  5. A 30 percent increase new research enrolments


Anne Sexton

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