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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: October 19, 2010 @ 3:41 pm

    Paying to Go to College

    Deaglán de Bréadún

    Here’s an interesting contribution to the debate on third-level fees from former BBC director-general Greg Dyke who was quoted as follows in yesterday’s Guardian: “I would make people who went to private schools pay for university.”

    • robespierre says:

      The moral quandary here is quite different to the UK. Those who can afford it should always pay.

      Here it is obscene that low paid workers at 18 years of wage subsidise people going to college. It is also obscene that state schools in Ireland are systematically weakened by the supports given to fee paying secondary schools. I would like to see an end to capitation grants for the likes of my alma mater, Blackrock College, and for teachers there to no longer be subsidised by the state.

      I would also like to see universities properly funded through a fee system. This would enable a better access programme by providing more targeted supports for disadvantaged children.

      I hasten to add that I very much enjoyed my time in school but I have a more than healthy scepticism of the value of these institutions. If they compound inequality, as their existence must, then how could one possibly be for them.

    • Liam says:

      RP , I sort of agree with your frustration but when was taxation ever a fee for service? If we assume that the bottom ~10% “deserve” some form of leg up then the logical assumption is that only the top ~10% contribute. The 60% to 80% in the middle are in a position to fund their own needs via savings or insurance if they were not taxed. As it is people are forced to hand over their hard earned green in exchange for substandard services and only the wealthier or extremely thrifty can afford to pay twice to exercise their choice.

      Any universal system is bound to fail as they are never funded and fall apart at the sniff of a recession or because of longer trends like demographics. But the wrong questions are being asked if the solutions being suggested are to pick on sub groups to penalise. Third level in particular has become a bubble and the quality has fallen due to the explosion of courses in areas better suited to work place training. Why? because the market mechanisms have been reduced. If the government is going to pay then it is perfectly logical to do a 4 year theatre studies degree even though there will be no job at the end, the consequences are misallocation of resources and inflation of costs, this is the dirty little secret at the heart at the heart of socialised provision of services.

    • robespierre says:

      Liam I think that graduating students should be required to at the very least contribute heavily towards the cost of their third level education once they graduate. Fannying off around the world for a year is a privilege not a rite of passage.

      Colleges are pretty flexible in responding to the provision of courses and there is a strong degree of flux in developing degree courses – happy to go along with the inefficient targeting of resources bit to a degree. Overall, I personally found the Universities I attended here and in France to be fairly efficient but I haven’t gone down through their profit and loss account.

      I do think on the second level side of things the fact that in Dublin and Cork in particular that there are a significant number of children taken out of state schools and placed in private schools with a superannuated fee structure reinforces class division and is an inhibitor to demanding high standards from state schools.

      Clongowes et alea should be fully self-funding or handed over to state as free schools. The middle ground that we have here is abhorrent to my mind. It also impedes our ability to properly develop a central secular ethos in schools with a religious option for those afflicted by faith.

    • paul m says:

      Now now robespierre you dont have to be religious to be afflicted by faith, an alma mater’ educated man like yourself should know that. although it’s hard to invest faith in anything but the surreal these days.

      I do agree that you should pay for your education once you enter the workforce, after all to a certain extent we’ve seen this system in operation in any of the apprenticeship trades – low skilled workers get a set wage after which time their employer puts them through Fás training/apprenticeship and once upskilled their rate of pay increases accordingly.

      What would be an issue is how the colleges are accredited and remunerated for their contribution to this education. Would it be performance based – those courses turning out the most successful (employed) students? Or perhaps grade based, those turning out the highest achievers in the class? (not necessarily the most employable)

      Either way the pie needs to be divided up in such a way that it drives the core of these universities to achieve, and that’s not pride in better results, it’s how they can get more money to build the business that 3rd level education has become.

    • Liam says:

      @ RP, In the UK, ambitious parents find a way to target the “good schools” , fee paying or not and create a virtuous circle. I don’t think this kind of behaviour should be looked down on in any way. Cities by their nature create a division because the ethics/goals of people are different, simple fact. Social engineering doesn’t work and any attempt to mix Dublin 4 schools and inner city schools would fail or be boycotted by one side or the other.
      There is a lot of reform needed here but a top down /centralised solution will fail. We need competing schools and possibly voucher based, competing curricula, and indeed get religion out of schools, which surely is the responsibility of parents if it means anything to them. The Sunday school system would separate the wheat from the chaff so to speak.

    • Joanna Tuffy says:

      James Connolly was probably the first to call for “Free Education up to the highest University Grades”

      Urging Liam and Robespierre especially to text GREAT 3 to 53125 to vote for James Connolly in the RTE Ireland’s Greatest Poll!

    • Robespierre says:

      Joanna – the only part of the Labour platform I more or less agree with is your education policy. However, I still cannot understand how free third level rather than better grants (asset tested rather than means tested to exempt lawyers and big farmers) supports the socialist ethos Labour is meant to propound.

      Ruairi Quinn is an alumnus of Blackrock too but if anything the people that benefited from a Labour education minister were the wealthy and the middle classes.

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