State and students ‘should bear cost’ of third-level education

Simmering debate on loan scheme sidelined in latest survey which endorses status quo

This survey indicates that nearly 40% of third-level students  say colleges are poorly funded and this sentiment rises among those with post-graduate degrees. File photograph: Getty Images

This survey indicates that nearly 40% of third-level students say colleges are poorly funded and this sentiment rises among those with post-graduate degrees. File photograph: Getty Images

 

The public believes the State should pay at least half the share of third-level education fees, with a quarter funded by students and their families and the remaining balance from businesses.

They are the findings of a poll of more than 1,000 adults conducted by the Higher Education Authority into public perceptions of the third-level system.

While there has been debate about whether students should pay for third level through a student loan scheme, these results indicate broad public support for the status quo.

A big majority, in excess of 80 per cent, believe third level equips graduates for life and the workplace. But current third-level students are less likely to feel that colleges have been successful at preparing graduates for the world of work.

On the question of whether the sector receives enough funding, just over half feel third level is either well, or adequately funded. Current third-level students are more likely to feel third-level institutions are well supported.

But nearly 40 per cent say colleges are poorly funded which increases significantly among those with advanced degrees, such as master’s, or PhDs.

The Kantar Millward Brown survey notes it is possible that because advanced degree holders have longer exposure to the Irish third-level education system, they are more aware of potential funding shortfalls.

A large proportion of Irish adults (more than 80 per cent) feel that our third-level institutions are generally good at equipping graduates for life, offering relevant fields of study and workplace preparation as well as the overall betterment of communities.

On the question of how to fund higher education, the public feels that the State should be responsible for paying at least half of third-level college fees, while 28 per cent of the cost should come from the individual taking the degree or their family.

Businesses should account for the remainder (17 per cent), according to most respondents.

Are degrees obtained in Ireland prestigious?

The ability to work as part of a team is perceived to be the most important skill for graduates to have in preparation for the workplace. This is followed closely by knowledge and understanding of information technology and the ability to communicate clearly and effectively.

Current third-level students also feel that teamwork skills are the most important. About one-third of the Irish public believe degrees from Irish third-level institutions are better than those from elsewhere while relatively few consider them worse.

However, there is some cause for some concern about perceptions among current third-level students who are more likely to think that degrees from Irish colleges are worse than those from mainland Europe, the US and elsewhere in the world.

More than a quarter of current third-level students believe that degrees are worse than those obtained from third-level institutions in the United States.