Higher education colleges and students have come together to push for a pre-election commitment for politicians for an increased €100m a year for the third-level sector.
State funding per student to third level institutions is now 40pc less than it was a decade ago because of austerity-era cuts that have not been reversed.
Colleges warn that the level of investment is threatening the quality of education and blame it for the way Irish universities have dropped down international rankings.
The Irish Universities Association (IUA), the Technological Higher Education Association (THEA) and the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) have joined forces on the issue.
They have begun a series of meetings with education spokespersons of all the major parties to encourage staff, students and parents to ask their candidate to prioritise funding higher education in the election.
They want core exchequer funding to third-level by at least €100 million per year over each of the next three years, and say it can be financed from an existing cash pile.
They say the National Training Fund (NTF) – funded through a levy on employer revenues –which will have a surplus of €1bn by the end of 2020, probably growing to €1.5bn can be used.
In 2016, the Cassells Report recommended an additional €600m a year for higher education by 2021, but no action has been taken on its recommendations and it has been referred to an EU-funded study group for further analysis.
IUA Director General Jim Miley said “realistically, we will have to wait until late 2020 to get a ‘Report about a Report’. It will take a further year or more for the political and civil service system to act.
“We just cannot wait that long. In an increasingly competitive global environment, Ireland’s talent is our future.”
THEA Chief Executive Dr Joseph Ryan said the NTF was established with the singular purpose of supporting our higher education and skills training and it was “unimaginable that such a surplus would be allowed to sit in a government bank account while the crisis in third level funding continues apace”.
USI president Lorna Fitzpatrick said they were urging people to ask election candidates to “commit to addressing the crisis in third level funding when they ask for your support.”