A Green education

In yesterday’s Irish Times, the Green Party spokesperson on education, Paul Gogarty TD, described the commitment in the revised programme for government not to introduce tuition fees as being the result of a Green ‘veto’. What are we to make of this? It seems that this particular commitment, which according to Mr Gogarty was ‘agreed readily and without any difficulty by Fianna Fáil Ministers’, was the key demand by the Greens in the coalition re-negotiations. The reason for this was apparently as follows:

‘Mr Gogarty said new tuition charges or Australian-style “study now, pay later” loan schemes could lead to a “brain drain” of students. It would also act as a barrier to those from lower-income groups concerned about building up debt.’

I cannot help feeling that we should have a better basis for settling national policy on this vital topic than a Green Party ‘veto’, which appears to owe little to close analysis of the situation, but is probably more connected with the need for Green TDs to be re-elected in middle class constituencies. In this setting the fees issue appears to have taken on a highly symbolic role for the Greens. The party claims that its policy is based on a desire to protect ‘lower income groups’, but the evidence does not back this up.

But I suppose what I might really be inclined to question is whether a very small minority partner in a coalition government should be allowed to assert that one particular national policy has to be subject to their ‘veto’. If this position is accepted, as Mr Gogarty claims it readily was, by the larger coalition partner, it suggests that higher education is not getting the kind of serious attention that it needs.

It is time, perhaps, to explain to the Green Party what the impact of their decision is and will be. It is time to point out that what we are creating is a middle class education system, but with inadequate resources, and that the necessary supports for the disadvantaged will be neglected if money for the middle classes has to be priotised over the needs of the disadvantaged. It is time to explain that ‘free fees’ have been wholly unhelpful to the poor, while at the same time they have created an unhealthy dependence of the universities on the increasingly unreliable taxpayer.

The Greens appear to be proud of this particular ‘veto’. They shouldn’t be.

Explore posts in the same categories: higher education, politics

Tags: , ,

You can comment below, or link to this permanent URL from your own site.

9 Comments on “A Green education”

  1. Vincent Says:

    I think you are forgetting that the GP have had what amounts to a cull of those with a lefty bent. Call them your more traditional Green. The fellow and his lass that would have populated Glastonbury before some gobshite decided to install yurts. The fellow that’s moved to the Greenman and left ‘Glasto’ to the sons and daughters of 70’s and 80’s rockers and footballers who are politically to the right of our PD’s. It’s in this country that the GP is inhabiting and they attempting to snaffle the homeless PDer.

  2. Al Says:

    Like all things green
    They grow with alot of manure
    What we are witnessing is the verbal type

  3. Ros Says:

    Yet another example of how removed from reality this ‘government’ is! Doesn’t Paul Gogarty know that we are already experiencing a “brain drain” of our brightest and best students? While spending time abroad can be a wonderful addition to the CV, leaving your country to work abroad should be a choice, not a necessity.

  4. Barra Says:

    Perhaps you can explain Ferdinand why you think that the reintroduction of fees will bring in more money for universities. It just replaces one budget line with another, unless you intend ramping up the level of fees. You’re not being honest with people on this.

    The majority of university income comes, as you know comes from state grants. Academic fees in TCD are c80% of state grants, and fees paid by the HEA make up less than half of this. HEA paid fees contribute about 12% of total income. The idea that the financial situation of universities will be solved by reintroducing fees is simply untrue. Tuition fees exist, but they are paid by the government. You would need to double them to make any difference. Why would I as a student then pay c10k a year for an undergrad in DCU when I could go to a far better college in the UK for half that?

    The university heads need to stop dismissing any opposition to reintroduction of fees out of hand, and engage with those opposed: USI etc. You might find that views are more nuanced than you assume.


    • Barra, with respect, you do the university heads an injustice. We (they) have engaged extensively with those opposing fees. In my own case, I have debated this with USI reps dozens of times, at least six times in public. I have also met student representatives and others for private discussions around this.

      As for whether fees would bring in more money, that would of course depend on how the government responds. You are assuming they would claw it all back, but actually the signs are they would do that with some of the additional income only. But even if not, it would help to stabilise funding, which at the moment is ludicrously volatile (and has been in the past also).

      Finally, whatever fees might be, they won’t be 10k. Half of that would be closer.


  5. The reason a party enters coalition is to implement policy which otherwise they could not. When it is a small party, the whole point is that the tail will try to wag the dog!
    Green is not a coherent political perspective as any party (conservative, liberal or socialist) can have green policies. It is to be expected, therefore, that the Greens will appear on the left on one day and on the right another day.
    No elected politician can afford to ignore the electorate but it is political cynicism to suggest without extensive argument that the Green position is determined by populism or fear of some despised, undefined “middle class”.
    I have said many times on this blog that the class-based argument is bogus. It may serve to draw the support of those who unthinkingly believe that there’s a painless, “the-rich-will-pay” way to reintroduce fees. There isn’t! One more time: if significant money is to be raised through fees, virtually everyone will have to pay. The notion that poor people are denied a uni education because money goes to pay the fees of those who can afford it is silly. Access for the poor is – as has been discussed on this blog in the past few days – much more complex. Moreover, “afford” is not a simple binary concept; the bogus argument refuses to admit the notion that thousands who were given a break by the abolition of fees can ILL-AFFORD their reintroduction. It is both cruel and dishonest to label these people as middle class and imply that they are whiners who are pretending that they cannot afford fees.

  6. Kevin O'Brien Says:

    slightly off topic
    “Questioning Value of Science Degrees”
    http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2010/08/26/stem

  7. Elizabeth Says:

    I am puzzled by this political popularity stance to retain free fees. The 2004 OECD report showed that our investment in HE was significantly behind other comparator countries in terms of GDP. I note the IUA’s submission to the Oireachtas Committee (2008) regarding some shared responsibility between learners and the exchequer for the cost of higher education. If we are serious about our sector being internationally competitive, it needs investment. So as a country can we really wear and reject two considered reports in the last six years: OECD and the likely recommendations of the Hunt Report which suggest that fees are a necessary way of funding HE for the future. We are out of step internationally.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


%d bloggers like this: