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The Higher Education Authority declares that third-level institutions need to reintroduce fees if they are to survive.
This is a remarkable, and long overdue, volte-face from the HEA, which itself endorsed free third-level education during the late 1990s. The HEA believed that this experiment would promote equality in education, instead of which even more advantage was conferred on the middle classes.
By the turn of the Millennium, it was clear to many students and staff, if not to university management, that free education and excessive senior salaries were draining the system dry.
It would have been wiser to maintain fees, even at a modest level, instead of having to spend their inevitable reinstatement on mere survival.
The somewhat lowly appearances of Irish universities in world rankings is in no small part due to the countless post-graduates and contract staff who undertook enormous teaching, research and consultation duties in return for poor remuneration.
The free fees experiment, therefore, transpired to be a perpetuation of inequality and an exploitation of skill.
Dr Florence Craven
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