'Why is education so cheap?': UCC president says honest conversation needed on third-level fees

John O'Halloran said the current €3,000 annual student contribution is lower than some of the fees charged by private secondary schools
'Why is education so cheap?': UCC president says honest conversation needed on third-level fees

UCC President, John O'Halloran: "One of the messages people have said to me, and this won't be popular, but why is education so cheap?"

The presidents of Cork universities UCC and MTU have said third-level education has suffered from underinvestment in recent years and must be improved in order to generate significant returns for the Irish economy and wider society.

Speaking at Cork Chamber's Business Breakfast University College Cork President John O'Halloran and Munster Technological University President Maggie Cusack highlighted the challenges the sector has faced with Ireland at the bottom of European league tables when it comes to investment from the State.

UCC President John O’Halloran. Picture: Tomás Tyner.
UCC President John O’Halloran. Picture: Tomás Tyner.

Mr O'Halloran said things had improved in recent years but also said that an "honest conversation" needed to take place on the current level of university fees and said the current €3,000 annual student contribution is lower than some of the fees charged by private secondary schools.

"I will have concluded 7,500 conferrings by the end of the next two weeks," Mr O'Halloran said. "One of the messages people have said to me, and this won't be popular, but why is education so cheap? Why is it only €3,000 a year? It is a difficult subject but some people will be paying more than that for second-level schools today and when they come to university they are paying less.

"So there is a bit of a mismatch and we have to have an honest conversation about this. 

"In parallel, we need to support those who do not have the means. 23% of students at University College Cork come from non-traditional pathways and are supported. Forty percent are on SUSI grants, so it's not about leaving people behind, it's about investing where it's important," he said.

MTU President Maggie Cusack said there is potential to secure further EU funding for Irish universities in the wake of Brexit.
MTU President Maggie Cusack said there is potential to secure further EU funding for Irish universities in the wake of Brexit.

Ms Cusack said there was huge potential for Ireland to take advantage of initiatives like EU Horizon2020 funding in the wake of Brexit and that investment by the state would allow universities to secure further funding and lead to a "virtuous cycle".

"Ireland really has an opportunity. If there was to be more investment in universities and the universities could go out and bring back more of that European funding. We need to be much more ambitious, not just in Ireland but on the global scale."

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