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Original image © K.Reichert

Original image © Paulw62

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A Technological University for the South East must be properly funded, comparable the higher education funding that other regions receive. Any merger must be supported to be successful with clear leadership based in the regional city – in the largest institution – and the constituent entities appropriately supported to continue their development.

FUSE calls for on the Government to fund higher education in the South East to the same extent as other city-regions in Ireland. Since 1989 three new traditional universities have been created which has resulted in the South East being the only Irish region without access to a university. The region’s two successful Institute of Technologies require transformative investment to stabilise our economy and society and unleash our region’s potential.  


The region has half the number of degree-level higher education places, the consequences of which cascade through the region’s economy and society. This is primarily experienced as a brain drain, with half of all leaving certificate students who go on to higher education leaving the region.

The ‘Brain Drain’ as observed in the percentage of students who leave the region for educational needs (source: HEA 2018/19 enrolment data)

Missing generation

The brain drain trend became much more pronounced from the year 2000 onwards, and now 21 years later, the impact of these individuals leaving, with few returning has become a broad demographic trend. There is now a pronounced ‘missing generation of 20-45 years olds from the region, a sustained loss of more economically active people. As a result the region has a significantly higher dependency ratio than the State- with relatively more older people (>50 yrs), and young people (<20yrs).

South East population donut as shown in SE Economic Monitor 2019 from CSO Census 2016
Source: South East Economic Monitor 2019 from CSO Census 2016

Economic drag

Each Irish university contributes on average €1.3bn to the economy of its region (see Indecon). They do this by producing graduates that are attractive to the labour market, that earn more money through higher educational attainment and by attracting foreign direct investment to the region.

The SE has higher rates of unemployment, consistently 2% higher than the national average and with a 2% lower labour market participation rate. This suggests that around 8,000 individuals in the South East are unemployed because of the economic underperformance of the region. Incomes in the South East are considerably lower than the state, evidence by income tax returns that are 45% per capita (2019). The South East 13,461 IDA supported jobs (IDA, 2021), which is 9,421 jobs short of a per capita share. The average incomes of IDA jobs are amongst the highest in Ireland at €66k. As the impact of the university migratory pattern, the stock of labour in the South East has lower education attainment and this has clear implications for the region’s economy.

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