Review of the Funding Allocation Model for Higher Education Institutions

The HEA undertook a review of the Higher Education model for allocating grant funding to universities, institutes of technology and colleges. The review and its recommendations will shape the future direction, performance and impact of higher education. The overall approach is set out in a scoping paper available here. The review addressed the following terms of reference:

  • review the existing approach to funding higher education institutions by the HEA in terms of its effectiveness in delivering on national objectives; reinforcing mission diversity; ensuring sustainability and quality; and driving performance
  • identify and consider options with regard to how that approach is developed in order to reflect the principles which must underpin future funding of higher education, including the appropriate balance between the three different components of the current funding model (block grant; performance funding component; top-sliced targeted or competitive funding)
  • make recommendations on an appropriate future approach and on an implementation timeframe to protect short-term financial stability

An independent Expert Panel, with a wealth of national and international expertise, lead the review. The panel was chaired by Ms Bríd Horan and other highly esteemed experts were Ms Mary Kerr, Professor Sir Ian Diamond and Professor Philip Gummett.

Working papers were produced that considered the higher education system, the current national policy context, the existing funding model and how this compared with international approaches. This identified a range of key issues and questions which the review needed to address, set out in a fifth working paper. These questions were used as the basis for a comprehensive programme of consultation.

This consultation programme comprised:

• An open call for structured submissions.
• Bilateral meetings between the Expert Panel and higher education representative bodies (IUA, THEA and HECA) and relevant networks (Presidents, Chief Financial Officers and Access Officers).
• Bilateral meetings between the Expert Panel and key stakeholders, including government departments and state agencies, unions representing students and employees and industry bodies.
• Feedback from the Advisory Group, which included a range of key stakeholders.
• Engagement with individual experts who informed analysis and challenged thinking as the review progressed.

Analysis of the existing situation and the key themes emerging from the consultations were set out in an Interim Report. Work then commenced on developing options for the future model. This considered potential approaches regarding the costing system, the teaching mission, recognising research and innovation performance, supporting access and the performance funding approach. All potential approaches were supported by further working papers six to eleven. In parallel, the potential scenarios in pursuing each of the options across the funding model was extensively modelled to test the implications at both institution and system level. This allowed an evaluation of options and the setting out of a recommended future approach in the final report.

The Expert Panel worked closely with the Advisory Group and the Higher Education Authority throughout the review. The Advisory Group and the HEA Board approved the initial scoping paper and terms of reference for the review and provided input at key stages, supporting the development of options and ultimately approving the conclusions and recommendations. The panel was supported by teams across the HEA, tapping into the knowledge of the Irish system and its institutions in relevant areas including funding, performance, access, skills development and research.