Skip menu

Should Employers Fund Higher Education?

Wednesday 3 July: Conference day one, 2:30pm – 3:00pm parallel session



Room 3 – 303-G15 Sem



Dr Deirdre Lillis
Technological University Dublin, Ireland

Dr Sharon Feeney
Technological University Dublin, Ireland



Like many countries worldwide, the funding of Ireland and New Zealand’s higher education systems are coming under increased pressure[1]. Beneficiaries of higher education include graduates (through future career earnings), the State (through economic returns and social development) and employers (through access to talent). Although a tripartite cost-sharing arrangement between the State, students and employers is a well accepted mechanism for financing further education worldwide (CEDEFOP, 2018; Ziderman, 2016) it is relatively rare in the higher education sector.

A recent review of higher education funding in Ireland recommended that employers make a moderate structured contribution through an increase in the National Training Levy and a portion of the revenues generated was used for higher education for the first time in 2017 (Government of Ireland, 2018). The allocation represents approximately 5% of total higher education budget but this is projected to increase to 12% over the next 5 years. In Ireland this represents an unprecedented shift in higher education funding policy. 

The public debate surrounding this policy shift is analysed in this paper with reference to international experience. Framed by a programme evaluation methodology, document analysis was undertaken on submissions by representative bodies in the education and industry sectors, records of Dail (Parliament) Proceedings, newspaper articles and media coverage and events on higher education funding. The nuances of the Irish context are identified to ensure the generalisability to an international audience. Initiatives in New Zealand are identified[2].

Capturing early stage responses to policy shifts can inform an agenda for comparative research, practice and future policy. Evidence of effectiveness is nascent and definitive conclusions are premature. A key finding is that there has been broad acceptance, with some caveats, of the principle of structured employer contributions to higher education funding. Additional funding has been injected into the sector. Concerns remain re: the governance of the fund, influence of employers, allocation priorities and employer cost effectiveness.



CEDEFOP 2018. The changing nature and role of vocational education and training in Europe. Volume 4. DOI: 10.2801/45684.
Government of Ireland, 2018. National Training Fund PBO Note 22 of 2018. Government of Ireland, 2018.
Ziderman, A. (2018). Funding mechanisms for financing vocational training: An analytical framework. In Education Finance, Equality, and Equity (pp. 135-164). Springer, Cham.




[2] We acknowledge the support of the Government of Ireland Academic Mobility scheme for this study which is investigating emergent and early stage implementation of national higher education policy issues in Ireland and New Zealand. A key input to policy development is learning from appropriate international comparators and New Zealand and Ireland share many geographical, cultural and economic characteristics – small islands with similar population and GDP, globalised economies dependent on international trade and education systems which consistently perform well across the spectrum of indicators.


Presentation topic

Tertiary – New Developments

Print Friendly, PDF & Email