Party time: Fine Gael

It is widely presumed that, after the coming Irish general election, the new government will be led by Fine Gael. It is the only party that has entered a sufficient number of candidates in the election to allow it to govern on its own if the electorate so decides, as no other party will has enough candidates to win a majority even if all of them were elected. Furthermore, the opinion polls are strongly suggesting a very sold performance by the party.

In these circumstances, what the party says in its manifesto matters, and we can expect to see many of its promises become government policy shortly.

So as regards higher education, what are these promises? They are contained in section 9.9 of the document, and this provides an insight into what Fine Gael believes now constitute our priorities. This includes what is, in essence, an adoption of the proposals on funding made in England by Lord Browne’s review: there will be no up-front fees, but graduates will be required to make a ‘contribution’ amounting in total to about a third of the cost of their degree programme.

Secondly, Fine Gael wants the universities to pursue ‘greater pay and non-pay efficiencies in the third level system through greater flexibility in working arrangements, in line with the Croke Park Agreement.’

Thirdly, the party wants more coordination of the sector, and so it promises to ‘give students a better third level education by repositioning our universities and institutes to become world leaders in education through greater collaboration, specialisation and focus in every educational institution.’

Finally, the party is intending to double international student numbers. While no doubt there are several reasons, the manifesto emphasises the potential for ‘maximising the revenue potential of this rapidly growing.’

Over recent years the impression has grown amongst politicians that Ireland’s higher education system is too fragmented and inefficient. Fine Gael has been at the heart of this drive to introduce ‘reform’. While the detailed plans set out in the manifesto are somewhat  vague, they nevertheless paint a picture of system in which government will exercise greater control over institutions and change the nature of the academic employment relationship. Universities will need to engage with the party as a matter of urgency, with a good case.

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7 Comments on “Party time: Fine Gael”

  1. jfryar Says:

    If the party promises to ‘give students a better third level education by repositioning our universities and institutes to become world leaders in education through greater collaboration, specialisation and focus in every educational institution’ then how exactly does one measure the success or failure of this initative?

    Yet again Irish parties produce aspirational manifestos big on waffle, with the appropriate public-pleasing phraseology, and little actual substance.

  2. Vincent Says:

    As far as I can see what we’ve got is one of those word cloud things from the other day in linear form. I recognise the words individually but they make no sense for a normal scan.

  3. John Says:

    I read section 9.9 of their manifesto and thought it was scant relative to what they have to say on health and public service reform.

    So what’s to be fearful of?
    – Is there no scope for additional productivity in the sector?
    – Is anyone in education (bar students) resisting a deferred-payment graduate contribution?
    – Is anyone denying China’s wealthy middle class is propping up the balance sheets of scores of UK universities, and that the quality of our education product is, in many cases, better?

  4. NiallM Says:

    The FG manifesto has nothing to say on research. The only mention of science is in relation to bonus points for Maths. There is some generic babble concerning “repositioning our universities and institutes to become world leaders in education”, but this is just posturing because there is no mention of increased investment but only “greater pay and non-pay efficiencies”.

    There is some mention of facilitating applications for university status, which sounds like half-hearted vote grabbing aimed at the SE.

    The only remarkable thing about the document, with respect to higher education, is how similar it is to the policies of the out-going Government.


  5. sapphire Says:

    “Finally, the party is intending to double international student numbers. ”

    Will these new students take places that would otherwise go to Irish/EU students?

  6. liadain von der decken Says:

    Tonight on Prime Time you mentioned that there is a lack of Vision in the parties’ proposed policies for education, just as you also mentioned in a recent Irish Times article. I am very interested to know what is your vision? I believe there needs to be a fundamental change in the way our children are taught way before Thurs level, so that there minds are awakened to curiosity of learning as opposed to drumming. Therefore I too am looking for a new Vision. But feel that you as one of our greatest outspoken, independent education thinkers should have some thoughts and pointers out there at least to spur on our unimaginative politicians! Or perhaps I have missed it somewhere.

  7. otto Says:

    FvP: I am not sure you have seen the reference to universities on FG’s document on ‘reinventing government’, including:

    102. We will devolve authority to universities, and ultimately to Institutes of Technology, over investment, staffing, pay and other employment conditions.

    Click to access ReinventingGovernment.pdf

    So there are some elements which recognise the need for university autonomy.

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