Fianna Fáil Education Spokesperson Thomas Byrne TD has called for a long-term programme of investment in third level education to bolster the sector.

Deputy Byrne made the comments in advance of the publication of the Times Higher Education’s world university rankings.

“While it appears the position of Trinity College Dublin is not yet finalised, UCD has slipped out of the top 200 institutions in the world. Virtually all Irish universities have experienced a decline in rankings,” said Deputy Byrne.

“While not too much should be made of such international rankings, they are nonetheless an important signal of quality to international students and for attracting research funding.

“Our universities and their staff have been doing a good job in difficult circumstances and still provide a very high quality of education and research. However due to the legacy of exchequer under-funding since 2012, they simply do not have enough resources to compete on the same terms with their peers.

“Across higher education, core expenditure for each student is down by 22% since 2011. This has fed directly into the decline in rankings amongst Irish universities.

“Funding reductions have resulted in a sharp deterioration in the staff / student ratio in universities from 1:15 to 1:19.5. This ratio is a key indicator of the quality of teaching, and compares to an average of 1:14 across the rest of the OECD.

“There has been virtually no new State investment in buildings and research facilities since 2008, and an estimated 40% of the Higher Education system’s infrastructure is now considered below standard.

“A strong higher education system is vital in bringing about high quality research and producing the skilled graduates needed to attract investment. Fianna Fáil has been consistently clear that €100 million core funding needs to be invested from general taxation into our higher level institutions to enhance quality and bolster our universities competitiveness,” concluded Deputy Byrne.