Minister for Higher Education, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, TD, today 27th of December 2017 visited Trinity College Dublin to announce the allocation of €2 million in funding for Lifelong and Flexible Funding initiatives in Higher Education.
In announcing the funding, Minister Mitchell O’Connor pointed to the importance of making progress in this area:
“Increasing lifelong learning opportunities is a priority for the Department. We have national targets to increase lifelong learning opportunities in both the National Skills Strategy and the National Access Plan. The funding I am announcing today rewards those higher education institutions that have made progress in this important policy area. It also signals that this is an area that will be prioritised by my Department in the future. This will be reflected in a review of the higher education funding model which I intend to publish early in 2018”.
The funding being targeted at lifelong learning opportunities is part of the Government’s reinvestment in higher education. This commitment is reflected in the recent Budget 2018 announcement in which the Ministers secured a total investment package of €60m in additional funding in 2018 for the higher education sector. This funding is on top of the €36.5m secured for 2017 and which is being provided again in 2018. In total, the level of investment in higher education will be €100m higher in 2018 compared to 2016.
Minister Mitchell O’Connor pointed to the importance of flexible learning opportunities for promoting access to higher education:
“As Minister for Higher Education, I know the importance of this additional funding. In particular, this has real potential to unlock higher education opportunities for particular groups in our society. The National Access Plan, which was published in 2015, contains a target to increase the proportion of part-time and flexible learners in higher education by approximately 11,000 by 2019. This €2m funding will encourage our higher education institutions to continue to be innovative and supportive in targeting prospective students for whom funding, work or family commitments can often be barriers to study. By widening access in this way this funding will impact positively on individuals, their families, as well as our economy and wider society”.
The funding being allocated will reward higher education institutions that are active in this area, and will encourage others to become more engaged in the future.
Notes for Editor:
Lifelong learning encompasses flexible learning opportunities such as part-time education, distance education, and online learning.
National Plan for Equity of Access to Higher Education
The National Plan for Equity of Access to Higher Education 2015-2019 contains a number of targets to increase participation in higher education from groups and communities who have been under-represented up to now – in particular, those living with social disadvantage, mature students, people with disabilities and Irish Travellers. The key target relating to flexible learning opportunities is to increase participation in part-time/flexible higher education from 19% to 22% (equating to an increase of approx. 11,000 students). The €2 million funding announced today will support the sector to progress this target.
National target to promote lifelong learning
The National Skills Strategy 2025 which was published in January 2016 contains a target to increase lifelong learning rates to 10% (of the population aged 25-64) in the medium term.
Breakdown of €2m funding
The funding is being allocated by the HEA to all of the publicly funded higher education institutions. The allocated funding is based on a weighted part-time pro rata student numbers which were recorded within the 2017 RGAM (reflecting the 2015/16 academic year). The following is the breakdown of funding to each institution.
Flexible Learning Allocation 2017
Allocation by RGAM Weighted FTE Flexible Learners 15/16
Review of the Higher Education Financial Allocation Model
An independent Expert Panel was appointed by the HEA in 2016 to review the current allocation model for funding higher education and to make recommendations on the most appropriate funding model for the future.
This review has recently been completed. It is expected that the review will be published in January 2018.