For the Republic of Ireland, as for most European countries, the period since the Second World War has been one of growth and expansion in higher education. This has resulted partly from a growing population of young people and partly from the demand for trained manpower in response to increasing industrialisation and technological change. Total enrolment in all sectors of higher education trebled from 15,000 in 1950 to more than 45,000 in 1983, and during the same period the number of students in the universities rose from 8,000 to 27,000. The rapid increase in enrolments led to the appointment of a Commission on Higher Education which reported in 1967. Many of its recommendations have been overtaken by subsequent developments, but two central themes were that increased state investment in higher education was a precondition of social and economic progress, and that the growing demand for higher education was so large and so diverse that new institutions should be established to cope with it. Accordingly, in addition to expansion in virtually all the existing universities and colleges, two new national institutes of higher education have been established since 1970, together with nine regional technical colleges, in which the emphasis is on courses in the applied sciences and technological and business studies. As far as state investment in higher education is concerned, around 80% of the financial provision for almost all the institutions is derived from state funds. The distribution of these funds to the universities and national institutes of higher education is one of the functions of the Higher Education Authority, a body established in 1968 on the recommendation of the Commission, and whose other functions include the continuous review of the need for and provision of higher education, and the coordination of financial planning and development.
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