Budget 2020 - What it means for International Students
Budget 2020 was announced by Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe on Tuesday and was by his own admission an unsurprising budget, with little in the way of headline grabbing announcements.
Over the last couple of days, further details have emerged and those which may interest our members and have relevance to international students are summarised below and a 'Citizens Guide to the Budget' has also been produced.
Minister for Education, Joe McHugh announced that there would be a decrease in capital spend by at least €19m in 2020, which will have an impact on buildings, IT and other infrastructure. Minister Mary Mitchell O'Connor, responsible for Higher Education, delivered mixed news with a new multi-annual fund of €90m to assist the development technological universities, which was welcomed by the Technological Higher Education Association (THEA). The Irish Universities Association (IUA) however, said that the budget did not address the “growing gap in core funding of our third level system” and called on government to make better use of the National Training Fund (NTF) reserves.
€2 million is being invested in an estimated 30 counsellors in a drive to address concerns around student mental health and wellbeing in the higher-education sector. A recent report by the Union of Students in Ireland stated that one in three students are experiencing “extremely severe levels of anxiety” and the provision of additional counsellors will provide additional support where it is needed.
Foreign Affairs and Trade
The primary focus of Budget 2020 was Brexit and this was the main thrust of the Department of Foreign Affairs Budget announcements.
It was, however, announced that for the 6th year running, there was an increase in the allocation for the Official Development Assistance (ODA). This year an additional €21m is being made available.
Both domestic and international students have difficulty in sourcing affordable accommodation in close proximity to their campus, particularly in the Dublin area and although not specifically linked to student accommodation, the capital funding announced to “support the delivery” of over 11,000 new social homes in 2020 will go some way towards reducing housing pressures.
Budget 2020 also announced €2 million additional investment to the Residential Tenancies Board who provide a dispute resolution service for tenants.
Additional funding of €1m has been made available for immigration services with the Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan announcing additional funding for Immigration Service Delivery, including additional staffing to fast-track applications. This is welcome news, and will hopefully go towards reducing visa application and immigration registration waiting times which saw annual increases of 12% and 11% respectively in 2018.
Sustainable Development Goals
Ireland has made some efforts towards equality budgeting (Goal 5 & 10) and in particular gender budgeting. Unlike most OECD countries that practise gender or equality budgeting, Ireland does not have an equality strategy.
Ireland has committed to the progressive implementation of green budgeting in Ireland and has set out in its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) National Implementation Plan. Some small measures were taken in Budget 2020 with the Minister for Finance committing to a €6 increase as a first step towards the 2030 carbon tax targets (Goal 13 - Climate Action). Some concerns as to how this will affect public transport remain however, with many students reliant on public transport to reach their place of study.
There was additional funding for victims of crime (up €0.2m to €1.9 million) as well as funding for the second year of the multiannual Sexual Violence Prevalence Study by the CSO.
According to the Minister for Social Protection, any increase in the minimum wage has been deferred due to the threat of a no-deal Brexit.
The Low Pay Commission, had recommended a 30c increase to bring the national minimum wage for adults up to €10.10 per hour, however the wage will remain at €9.80 per hour until there is “greater clarity” on Britain’s exit from the European Union.