Student-staff ratio poses serious funding problem

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Data released by the Higher Education Authority (HEA) reveals that since 2008, the core staff numbers at universities have dropped by 12 per cent. Student numbers, on the other hand, have shot up by 10 per cent, thereby widening the student-staff ratio by 17 per cent.

The statistic is a cause of some concern for anyone involved in third-level education as it begs a serious question about where funding to resolve the ratio discrepancy is to be found.

Cuts to state funding, which has been bandied about as a possible solution, have been rebuffed by most education providers who argue that making more cuts will undermine the standard of education provision, which is something that must surely remain a priority for social as well as economic reasons.

College authorities are instead requesting a return of admission fees or more grant assistance. The former is likely to upset prospective students and their parents and make college less accessible for those who cannot afford the fees; the latter will surely be something of a bee in the bonnet of the government, which is itself seeking to shore up its annual spend.

Speaking about the funding problem ahead, Irish Universities Association chairman, Dr Patrick Prendergast said ‘As the economic indicators start to point in a more positive direction, now is the time for a collective debate, without preconditions, about the profile of the funding model that will meet the development needs of higher education.’


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