Decision on fees - Funding our colleges

UNIVERSITY leaders have warned for many years that the current funding model for third level institutions is unsustainable and that we need to radically rethink how we support them and what sort of services we expect them to deliver.

The number of of students at third level instutions is at an all time high — up 20% since 2008. This has had a profound impact on the kind of tuition available. The Higher Education Authority (HEA) recorded a ratio of one academic per 19.5 students in 2014, significantly below the OECD average of 14 to 1. The intimacy, the one-on-one contact between student and mentor that once was such a feature of college life, seems no longer possible.

Today we report that Education Minister Jan O’Sullivan plans to almost double the number of foreign students to boost the income of struggling colleges and universities. On the face of it this seems a plausible response, but it hardly represents a permanent solution to the social and political question of funding third-level education. Like it or not, we will have to make a decision on college fees sooner or later.


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