Teacher's Pet


An insiders’ guide to education

* A 1980s-style points race has returned this year as record numbers of students compete for college places. But could things get worse before they get better?

Last week an independent report for the British government says the current cap on fees of £3,300 should be abolished. Universities could be free to charge over £6,000 with the likes of Oxford and Cambridge charging up to £12,000.

In response, the London Independent alerted readers to the great value available in Dublin. Trinity College “with alumni including Swift, Beckett and Wilde’’ offer EU students an undergraduate place for only £1,657 (€1,454 ) per year, it gushed. The lengthy article featured an alluring photo of undergraduates rambling across the cobblestones. It all looks like we can expect a British invasion – but will this put even more pressure on points?

* Last week’s feature on the race to be the next provost of Trinity drew a huge response from readers.

With characteristic PR flair, bookmaker Paddy Power is now offering odds on the race. Vice-provost Paddy Prendergast has been installed as the odds-on 4/7 favourite to succeed John Hegarty.

Head of the School of Medicine Dermot Kelleher is the bookies 9/2 second-favourite ahead of Colm Kearney of the School of Business at 7/1. Jane Ohlmeyer, the Erasmus Smith chair of modern history is an 8/1 shot to be the first female provost of TCD.

Other prices: 12/1 Clive Williams/Frances Ruane; 16/1 John Parnell and Frank Boland; 25/1 Andrew Hamilton /Chris Higgins/Eoin O’Dell and 33/1 Ferdinand von Prondzynski and Emily P Bakemeier.

* More wit and wisdom from broadcaster George Hook on our education system.

“There were enough people studying journalism in Ireland to staff every newspaper in the US,’’ he told a student debate last week. College, he said, had become a kind of holding pen for many students; a place where they escape reality doing degrees which have no relevance to the jobs market.

Harsh words. They couldn’t possibly be true – could they?

* The Department of Education is often criticised for its poor research capacity. But is the Minister for Education joining the chorus of criticism ?

The following is an edited transcript of Dáil exchanges last week between the minister and Fine Gael education spokesman, Fergus O’Dowd during a debate on the new Education Amendment Bill

Deputy Fergus O Dowd: We support the main provisions of the Bill. Ireland is in many ways at a crossroads owing to changes in our demographics. There have been significant changes in our population during the past number of years. I take this opportunity thank my researcher, Ms Áine Kilroy, and the Oireachtas Library which produced an excellent and worthwhile document (comment interrupted)

Deputy Mary Coughlan: It is more than I can get.

Fergus O’Dowd: (comment continues) . . . on this Bill. The Oireachtas is providing us with excellent services.

* What is going on at the StateExams Commission?

The SEC, once noted for its strong public relations, issued Leaving Cert appeal results last week – without any advance warning and long after this newspaper’s nightly deadline.

The result? Readers were denied the shocking news that up to 20 per cent of marks in some subjects were upgraded on appeal.

Maybe there is method in the SEC’s madness!

Got any education gossip? Email in confidence to teacherspet@irishtimes.com