Minister for Education Joe McHugh has defended the government’s delay in implementing the Cassells report saying that it is “very difficult to get business through parliament because of the weakness of this government."
“I think it will take a new composition government to bring a big fundamental change around this,” he told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland.
Mr McHugh was commenting ahead of the Leaving Certificate results today.
The Minister acknowledged that the cost of student accommodation in the country’s cities meant that some families could not afford to send their children to university.
“University is a very expensive journey for many families, accommodation is one barrier, one thing I am very attentive to is that no more cost is put on parents and households, yes, we have a funding issue within universities,” he added.
“There are other stepping stones to careers. There are regional options.”
Mr McHugh said he would be encouraging an approach that would bring university status to the colleges in the regions.
“I don’t want students to feel that they have to go to the cities.
“There are different ways, different stepping stones, different pathways to careers. There are other options and they could be at regional level.”
The Minister said he and Mary Mitchell O’Connor, the Minister of State at the Department of Education are working very closely on the recommendations in the Cassells report.
“We are working towards introducing fundamental changes in the university sector and those are challenges that need to be grappled with.
“The Cassells report is at European level now, we have to be very proactive in terms of making very big decisions around university funding and as a former Chief Whip, one of the things that I learned in the present mathematics and numerics of this Dáil, is that is very difficult to make changes.
“I've been working very closely with the university sector and the stakeholders, and there is an acceptance that change has to come from within. One of the driving forces to ensure change is that we have long term sustainability in the university sector.”