Fee return could see exodus to North

THE introduction of college fees could lead to students flocking over the border to Northern Ireland, third-level bosses warned yesterday.

In a polar opposite stance on the issue to their university counterparts, representatives of 13 of the institutes of technology told TDs and Senators they would oppose the anticipated Government announcement of some form of tuition fees or graduate tax.

Michael Carmody, chair of the Institutes of Technology Ireland (IoTI), said a form of undergraduate fees is already in place with the planned increase in registration charges from e900 to e1,500 next autumn.

“There could be a significant migration of students and revenue from border areas in particular to Northern Ireland and the UK if fee differentials encouraged this,” Mr Carmody, also president of Institute of Technology Tralee, told the Oireachtas education committee.

Letterkenny IT president Dr Paul Hannigan said a recent study showed their college is worth e100 million annually to its region — twice the value of a nearby multinational company with 600 workers — in terms of 300 salaries and the value of 2,500 students, as well as graduates living and working in the wider region.

The ITs also argued that, if any form of fees or loans system is introduced, the Government should ensure capital wealth is taken into account, as well as annual income, in determining who should pay.

The presidents of three teacher training colleges said any return of tuition fees would have a negative impact on Government targets to raise third-level participation from 55% to more than 70% of school leavers.

“We would have considerable concern about the impact of fees on under-represented groups, either people from socio-economic backgrounds or mature students,” said Dr Pauric Travers, president of St Patrick’s College, Drumcondra.

Dr Anne O’Gara, president of Marino Institute of Education, and Froebel College of Education president Marie McLoughlin also said they opposed fees, although there is not unanimity among all education colleges on the issue.

The seven university presidents have proposed a system under which part of the e300m-plus cost of the free fees scheme continue to be paid by the state but the remainder be charged to students, with the option of paying back under a loans system.

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