Debating fees

I was a guest speaker last night at Trinity College’s University Philosophical Society, participating in a debate on the return of tuition fees. Speaking with me was the Provost of TCD, John Hegarty, and against us was Ruairi Quinn of the Labour Party, and an officer of the Union of Students in Ireland (USI). Not surprisingly the vote at the end was against the return of fees, but it was not an overwhelming one, and a significant number of students spoke on the same side of the argument as me; though I would not necessarily have agreed with everything they were saying.

Right now, the key issue for me is that, whatever we might say are the principles of the matter, higher education is about to face dramatic and potentially lethal funding cuts in the current state of the public finances, unless we adopt some form of user payment for those who can afford it. We may call for more public investment, we may be satisfied that such investment is the right thing, but that still doesn’t alter the fact that it won’t happen. So we may end up with a system in which the taxpayer is the sole funder of third level education but doesn’t fund it properly so that it begins to fall apart, while all the time an excessive proportion of the declining pool of public money is actually supporting the wealthy. It makes no sense.

Given the comments recently by the Minister for Education, I suspect that fees will be introduced, but I still fear that the framework will not be ideal or even appropriate. The system of tuition fees must satisfy several objectives: it must be provide for sufficient resources to make Irish universities internationally competitive; it must not just replace public money; it must be easy to administer; it must ensure that everyone, regardless of income, will be able to study at third level if suitably qualified. None of these things are assured, and I shall develop them a little in future posts on this blog.

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3 Comments on “Debating fees”


  1. […] A post this morning from A University Blog, the diary of Prof Ferdinand von Prondzynski, President of DCU, who was also speaking at that debate explains what the return of fees ought to mean: Debating fees […]

  2. Marie Says:

    One third level institute appears to be considering a 20pc salary cut across the board for all lecturers. It’s quite frustrating that you pursue research and further study for years only to be faced with a salary that resembles that of a junior level civil servant or school teacher. Investing in an education and career should not be punished like this but what else can institutes do when they are hemorrhaging funding an financial support.


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