EDUCATION Minister Ruairi Quinn was happy to acknowledge the work of third-level colleges when he paid tribute to them in the Dail this week for doing a good job in the current circumstances.
But higher education cannot continue to expand and produce quality graduates without more resources.
By 2020, another 40,000 students will bring the numbers in third level to almost 170,0000, and the system will need an estimated €500m a year extra.
The question of where that money will come from is for another day, but for now, Mr Quinn is effectively telling the colleges that, first, they must earn it.
Mr Quinn is asking them to identify their strengths and play to them, eliminate waste, form strategic alliances, and, in some instances, even merge.
The colleges cannot afford to ignore Mr Quinn. Higher education reform will roll out in tandem with a new system of funding. Instead of being paid on a per-student basis, funding will be heavily weighted in support of those who embrace change.