Written Answers. - Research Funding.

Tuesday, 25 March 1997

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 476 No. 7

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  218.  Mr. Haughey  Information on Seán Haughey  Zoom on Seán Haughey   asked the Minister for Education  Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach   her views on the recent decision by the Higher Education Authority to cut the research equipment budget to universities by 60 per cent; if she will intervene to reinstate this essential investment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8516/97]

  219.  Mr. Martin  Information on Micheál Martin  Zoom on Micheál Martin   asked the Minister for Education  Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach   the reason for the decision taken by the Higher Education Authority recently to cut the research equipment budget to universities by 60 per cent; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8525/97]

  220.  Ms Keogh  Information on Helen Catherine Anne Keogh  Zoom on Helen Catherine Anne Keogh   asked the Minister for Education  Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach   the concerns, if any, she has in relation to the decision by the Higher Education Authority to cut the research equipment budget to universities by 60 per cent; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8526/97]

  221.  Mr. J. Walsh  Information on Joe Walsh  Zoom on Joe Walsh   asked the Minister for Education  Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach   if her attention has been drawn to the widespread disquiet following the decision by the Higher Education Authority to cut the research equipment budget to the universities by 60 per cent; and if she will have arrangements made to reinstate the investment in the National Innovation System. [8615/97]

  229.  Miss Quill  Information on Máirín Quill  Zoom on Máirín Quill   asked the Minister for Education  Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach   the reason for the arbitrary cutback of 60 per cent on the research equipment budget to the universities; if she will outline the consequences of this decision for the training of graduate researchers, technologists, engineers and other technically qualified professionals; the discussions, if any, she has had with the Department of Enterprise and Employment in this regard prior to this decision; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7949/97]

[1661]

  266.  Mr. Barry  Information on Peter Barry  Zoom on Peter Barry   asked the Minister for Education  Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach   if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the Higher Education Authority has recently made a cut of 60 per cent in the research equipment budget to the universities and that this cut will have an effect on the training of many technically qualified professions which are in short supply at present; and if she will request the Higher Education Authority to reverse its decision. [8211/97]

  268.  Mr. Gregory  Information on Tony Gregory  Zoom on Tony Gregory   asked the Minister for Education  Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach   if she will make a statement on the decision by the Higher Education Authority to cut the research equipment budget to universities; and if this decision will be urgently reviewed and this essential investment reinstated in the national innovation system. [8213/97]

  271.  Mr. Creed  Information on Michael Creed  Zoom on Michael Creed   asked the Minister for Education  Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach   if she has satisfied herself that the research equipment budget to universities is sufficient for the current year; if her attention has been drawn to a significant cutback in this area introduced by the Higher Education Authority; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8216/97]

  284.  Mr. E. Byrne  Information on Eric J. Byrne  Zoom on Eric J. Byrne   asked the Minister for Education  Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach   if her attention has been drawn to the concerns expressed that the decision of the Higher Education Authority to cut the research equipment budget by 60 per cent will have profound consequences for the training of graduate researchers, technologists, engineers and other technically qualified professionals; her views on these concerns and the fact that science in Ireland ranks somewhere down with Greece and Turkey in the amount of Government support which it receives; and if she will make a statement in the matter. [8239/97]

  293.  Mr. N. Treacy  Information on Noel Treacy  Zoom on Noel Treacy   asked the Minister for Education  Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach   the reason she requested the Higher Education Authority to arbitrarily cut the research equipment budget to the national universities by 60 per cent; if her attention has been drawn to the profound consequences this will have on the training of graduates, researchers, technologists, engineers and other technically qualified professionals; if her attention has further been drawn to the fact that there is already a shortage of skilled people in many key areas such as computer software and electronics and developing shortages in other areas such as pharmaceuticals; if her attention has further been drawn to the fact that access to modern research equipment is one of the key elements in maintaining our national skills pools; if she will direct the Higher Education Authority to rescind its recent decision, particularly in view of the fact that its own CIRCA report on the management of research in Irish Universities outlines the urgent need for an increase in both the allocation of capital equipment for research and baseline funding for research; if so, the date on which this will be done; the extra money, if any, to be made available in this regard; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8329/97]

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach): Information on Niamh Bhreathnach  Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach  I propose to take Questions Nos. 218, 219, 220, 221, 229, 266, 268, 271, 284 and 293 together.

No arbitrary cut back is being made in the capital [1662] provision for teaching and research equipment for the universities over the period 1994-99. While some variations may occur in the annual capital equipment allocations to the Higher Education Authority by my Department it is not envisaged that there will be any reduction in the level of equipment to be approved over this period.

Under the National Development Plan 1994-99 an amount of £10 million is being provided for the replacement of research and teaching equipment in the universities. This provision is part of an overall £120 million capital investment programme designed primarily for the purpose of supporting the third level sector in areas of research and teaching related to economic growth and job creation.

This £10 million for equipment has already been complemented by a further £2 million of Exchequer funds bringing the total allocation for equipment for the Higher Education Authority sector to an average of £2 million per annum over the period of the plan. In addition the £120 million programme includes elements of funding for new equipment. A further £60 million capital investment programme comprising £30 million from the private sector with matching funds from the Exchequer was approved by Government in 1995 with a view to providing additional graduate and postgraduate places in the university sector.

To further enhance the effectiveness of the sector both in terms of meeting the recommendations of the Science Technology and Innovation Advisory Council and the Steering Committee on the Future Development of Higher Education and in the awareness that there is need for further investment in capital resources for research my Department is at present considering introducing a number of further initiatives that will contribute to the funding of new equipment for the sector.


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