Higher Education Funding Links

There have been lots of contributions since the Cassells Report issued. It’s probably worth putting them all in one place. If I’ve missed some, please pop them in the comments.

The Cassells Report itself.

The reaction to the report

Carl O’Brien has a great series of articles on the subject. Here’s one: College funding explainer: The three options to pay for third level

Michael O’Regan: Senators criticise proposal for student loan scheme

The reaction to the reaction

Brian Lucey: Third level financing fails to paint the whole picture

Niamh Hourigan: Student loans will make graduates flee. Face it, tax is the best way to fund third level

Lorraine Courtney: State continues its war on youth, denying them a brighter future

Kim Bielenberg: Facing a higher degree of debt – students could graduate owing €20,000

Darragh Flannery and John Cullinan Study now, pay later? Please read the terms and conditions

Brian Hayes Why this Dáil may actually grasp the nettle of higher education funding

By Stephen Kinsella

Senior Lecturer in Economics at the University of Limerick.

7 replies on “Higher Education Funding Links”

There is duplication with my comments on the previous story, but just to point out again that there does not seem to be a single mention in any of these articles of the potential of technology to disrupt education. Online education will be cheaper, faster, better.

And some additional thoughts to anyone who thinks or says anything like “Well, technology will never substitute real face-to-face education”, or “a University’s role is wider than mere passing of knowledge”. First off, are you sure? Do you really believe in 5, 10, 15 years that technology and bandwidth will not have advanced to the point that going to a building to be taught by a person with a piece of stone in their hand will not seem as daft as not having a mobile phone seems to most people? And if the Irish universities don’t lead in that space, what will happen when someone else does? Because the answer to that last question is simple. The Irish universities will die. Suddenly, irrecoverably. Like social networks not called Facebook.

Already, US universities are starting to release for-credit courses. They will not stop. This isn’t the Open University V2. It’s something different. Given a choice between a degree issued by Harvard, or Georgia Tech, or Stanford that’s available to anyone with €5000 and the willingness to work hard, who’d sign up for a degree from UCG or TCD or DCU?

At least there’ll suddenly be some extra land in south Dublin to put apartments on. The big question for Irish universities is simple. “Do you want to lead, or die?”. Loan funding is a short-term detail.

Read my piece. Carefully. In depth. Your talking about a delivery mode. But delivering what?

Hi Brian. I did read your piece. Many useful thoughts.

I am indeed talking about a delivery mode. It’s not clear to me what point you feel I’m missing.


Richard Bruton, the new education minister when enterprise, jobs and innovation minister, had a better record at announcements than innovative ideas, solutions and challenging the business conventional wisdom.

Now, while funding of education is very important, Bruton selling the idea of student loans to stretched urban dwellers while a suspicion would exist that some people would be able to get below the threshold without valid reason, would require more than a focus on funding as many would prefer that it would be allocated from tax receipts.

In the US, government data show that in the 30 years since the early 1980s the cost of third level education in public, not-for-profit, and private universities has doubled in real terms when for most of this period household income has remained static for most Americans — this has fuelled rising student debt and explains some of the strong support from young people for Sen Bernie Sanders.

The Cassels report recommends increasing the employer training levy but recent governments have avoided that while the apprenticeship system collapsed. Modern systems covering a wide range of jobs coincide with low youth unemployment in 4 European countries in particular.

In 2013 Times Higher Education published a survey of business support for university research. It showed that companies were investing the equivalent of $97,900 in each research scholar in South Korea to carry out work in innovation and research on their behalf followed by Singapore at $84,500 and Ireland was last after Portugal with a sum of $8,300.

Irish universities collected less than €1m in licensing and related fees in 2012.

In 2014 there were almost 2,000 full-time academics teaching entrepreneurship in US universities but the typical CEO of a key fast-growing startup was 40 years of age and had related prior experience as an employee in similar businesses.

If the planned Trinity €70m “Entrepreneurship and Innovation Hub” fails to meet its business funding target, would the shortfall come from the general budget?

South Korea has an obsession about children getting into top universities which is viewed as a social sickness. Children are forced to attend cramming schools late into the evening and some families are impoverished. It has been a factor in the plunge in the fertility rate.

Last year SK had the highest rate of youth unemployment in 15 years.

68% of SK’s 25-34 year olds are graduates, 51% in Ireland, 42% in Denmark and 28% in Germany — a typical German manufacturing worker would be the highest earner among the big manufacturing nations and would likely have command of a lot more technology than the typical graduate inhabitant of cubicleland!

Denmark is a high wage knowledge economy. A decade ago Ireland aspired to be one.

In recent times Google in the US began hiring high school graduates for coding as a requirement of a four-year computer science degree can exclude the best.

Daniel Gelernter, the CEO of the tech startup Dittach, wrote in the Wall Street Journal in 2015:

Today we insist on higher-education for everything — where a high-school diploma for a teacher or a reporter was once adequate, a specialized degree in education or journalism is now required. But my lead developer didn’t graduate from college, and neither did my other full-stack developer. I do have one developer with a degree in electrical engineering: Did he learn any of his development skills in college, I ask? No.

There is an opportunity to relieve the drought of qualified software developers that has driven up prices and is stunting startup growth: A serious alternative to the $100,000 four-year college degree wouldn’t even need to be accredited — it would merely need to teach students the skills that startups are desperate for, and that universities couldn’t care less about.

On emigrants with student loans and high default rates, the Cassells report omits the best option — linking the loan with the passport record.

Finally, shouldn’t it also be acknowledged that it would be better that some young people skip university and avoid dropping out later.

Besides, poor Irish adult skills beyond graduates, the OECD reported that up the 20% of university students had literacy problems.

If the planned Trinity €70m “Entrepreneurship and Innovation Hub” fails to meet its business funding target, would the shortfall come from the general budget?

That’s the total cost for a state of art business school within which will be the hub. And a whole bunch of other things. All this is coming from fee income or philanthropy. So, no. Take that as a fact.
You’ve banged on about this since the 2014 announcement and it’s not clear that you’ve made an effort to reach out to say, a TCD board member who’s a member of the B School executive, as an example, to update yourself as a journalist. Please, do. You’ve plenty of contacts. Get the facts Michael your usually the top man foe that but this seems a blind spot

@ Brian Lucey

Maybe I harp on about the TCD venture because I feel that a university shouldn’t be using what are buzz words that can mean a multiplicity of things. You do mention philanthropy but the likes of Chuck Feeney are rare.

‘Wired’ commented on “innovation” being the buzz word of the decade:

Like Miss America contestants wanting world peace, the term “innovation” has become the canned response of executives, politicians, and educators to the question, “What do we need to be successful?”

“Most companies say they’re innovative in the hope they can somehow con investors into thinking there is growth when there isn’t,” said Clayton Christensen, a professor at Harvard Business School and the author of the famous 1997 book, “The Innovator’s Dilemma.”

A search of 2011 annual and quarterly reports filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission showed companies mentioned some form of the word “innovation” 33,528 times which was a 64% increase from five years before that, according to The Wall Street Journal.

A startup can be defined as a firm up to 12 months old but also up to 5 years; are entrepreneurs one-person operations and employer firms or just the latter?

It’s interesting that the college dropouts who were founders of successful large US companies in recent decades, including Uber, were not pioneers but enhancers of existing products and services while the Google founders got funding from the US government to produce an improved search engine, while they were at Stanford.

As I say Michael, feel free to seek to inform yourself. Loads of avenues for a journalist. If you want facts. If you don’t, that’s a surprise.

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