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'We've spent weeks wrestling with Irish Water - but there's a far bigger concern we need to focus on'

Education funding needs to be kept up to scratch to protect our graduates, the HEA’s chief executive has warned.

Updated at 9.37am

IRELAND RUNS THE risk of damaging the reputation of the country’s college graduates if the education system does not receive adequate funding, the Higher Education Authority (HEA)’s chief executive has warned.

The warning comes as the results of the organisation’s survey of 18,500 Irish graduates are released revealing a wealth of information about their job prospects and employment status.

65% of those surveyed are now in employment, and 82% of these are still working in Ireland. Around 7% are still looking for work.

The employment rates for Honours Bachelor Degree graduates rose from 45% in 2009 to 58% in 2014.

Tom Boland, chief executive of the HEA, welcomed these positive trends, but warned that they are fragile.

“Yes, our graduates are getting jobs, more are getting jobs in Ireland, and our graduates continue to be very employable,” he told TheJournal.ie, “but how big a risk are we running by our underfunding of the education system?”

Unless we do something soon about the true sustainability of the funding of the system… can we guarantee the same quality of graduate as is obvious from the statistics?

“I think that’s a big unanswered question,” Boland continued, highlighting how the country has “wrestled” with Irish Water over the past few weeks as it formed a key part of the government formation talks, while education did not play as large a role.

Boland said the report did contain many positive trends, such as the same increase in the number of graduates who have not emigrated. He highlighted one area of concern as being the high numbers of education graduates who are in temporary employment.

The survey also revealed that computer science/ICT graduates in Ireland earn more than those who studied in other areas, with 62% earning more than €29,000 per year.

And, as the survey notes was expected, higher levels of education means more money. While almost half of people who hold BA honours degrees earn less than €25,000 per year, this drops to just 9% for people who hold doctorates.

Male graduates earn more than their female counterparts once earning above the €29,000.

hea-graduatesdo-figure-3-4

This graph has been corrected. Click here to see a larger version.

Arts and humanities graduates frequently end up in careers unrelated to their degree.

Boland said this isn’t a massive concern. “A lot of young people don’t necessarily know what kind of career they want,” he said, adding that a lot of employers are still looking for graduates regardless of the degree they studied.

HEA-GraduatesDo-Table 2.2 HEA HEA

Click here to see a larger version of this graph.

Students who complete a Masters are most likely to gain employment – however, they’re also the most likely to be on the hunt for a career.

HEA-GraduatesDo-Figure 1.1 HEA HEA

Click here to see a larger version of this graph.

Here’s a look at how much graduates from each level of education earn.

HEA-GraduatesDo-Figure 3.1 HEA HEA

Click here to see a larger version of this graph.

Read: Ireland and the EU are backing a massive €230 million expansion at DCU >

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