Steadying Irish higher education

Over the past few days in Ireland there has been some talk about the possible education – and higher education – reforms that may now be planned by the government. This was prompted by a report in the Irish Independent giving details of a paper submitted last year by the Department of Education to the Department of Finance. The context of the paper was the continuing public funding crisis in Ireland, and therefore the search for savings.

The authors of the paper had suggested that what has previously been known as the ‘student registration charge’ (but which under the last Budget of the Fianna Fail/Greens administration was actually designated the ‘student contribution charge’) might rise to €3,000 per annum. Around the same time, as we have already noted in this blog, the Minister for Education and Skills, Ruairi Quinn TD, indicated the there would not be a proposal for a student loan system to fund tuition fees.

The memorandum reported by the Irish Independent probably cannot be seen as representing government policy, in that it was part of the search for a Budget savings by the last government. Nevertheless, the overall mood music now is that there is a serious funding gap, that the taxpayer cannot afford to fill it, and that student contributions may be unavoidable. While this latter point has not ben confirmed by the government, it has not been denied either.

However, important though a solution to the funding crisis is, there is more to be done. The higher education system in Ireland has been subjected to unprecedented criticism and hostility over recent months; its community is facing low morale, enormous pressures due to the consequences of the employment control framework and its impact on staffing levels, and a lack of self-confidence. This is damaging in part because higher education is the key ingredient of economic recovery, and it needs some nurturing and support.

It is important that the structural and financial changes to be introduced in the Irish higher education system proceed quickly, so that stability and sustainability can return. Doing so is ultimately in the national interest.

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3 Comments on “Steadying Irish higher education”

  1. Vincent Says:

    Given that the Judges are the only sector protected by the Constitution with regards to pay, the civil service argument about legitimate expectation and contracts entered are just a nonsense. Therefore the State can reduce the pay of all those above say €45,000 by 45% at a stroke.
    And anyway, it’s about time that the civil service cops on that they aren’t part of running an empire be that British or latter day Roman.

  2. Al Says:

    Highlight all this without mentioning the Croke Park Agreement????

  3. Don Says:

    Ah… the national interest. Ferdinand – you fell for it. Invoking the national interest, as if that is the rationale, the reason, the objective, the rallying point. The last thing we need now is to ‘proceed quickly’ with structural and financial changes in the HE system to achieve ‘stability and sustainability’. You might as well have added ‘going forward’. Higher Education is a marathon race, not a sprint. Admittedly, marathon runners may need to put in a spurt now and then, but NOW is not the time…

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