As Sinn Féin spokesperson for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, I strongly welcome the statement from Alan Wall, CEO of the Higher Education Authority (HEA) on the Mayo Campus, and the need to change how we invest in higher education in Mayo.
It shows a clear recognition that we need to look beyond a narrow version of economic analysis and start funding the campus based on a vision of regional development and social benefit.
The Mayo campus has been crying out for real investment for well over a decade. That will only happen with a vision and ambition for the campus. This is vital to making the Technological University for the North West a success.
Real issue is underfunding, not financial mismanagement
To often the debate has centred on economic viability of the colleges and campuses across the state. Without any recognition of the differences between established universities in cities and campus like GMIT in Mayo.
The Mayo Campus is struggling financially and running a deficit. This is not the result of financial mismanagement, but because we are underfunding our colleges.
GMIT has actually far exceeded targets for increasing private sources of revenue. People on the ground have done great work to achieve this. The Mayo Campus was set a target of generating €0.5 million of their own income. They have far exceeded this target hitting €1.1 million.
Substantial reduction in government funding
All public colleges rely on government funding as a main source of their income. But, too often the issue has been intentionally confused. The real issue here is the level of funding. The last decade has seen a substantial reduction in ‘per student’ funding from government.
Sinn Féin would increase core funding to institutes of higher education to make regional campuses viable. Sinn Féin would also increase the cap on undergraduate nursing places. This would directly benefit the Mayo GMIT campus.
I will continue to work with anyone that believes in the potential of the Mayo Campus to deliver for the people of Mayo”.