Student registration will increase to €1,500 from next September


THIRD LEVEL:THE STUDENT registration charge will increase by roughly €600 to €1,500 from next September.

However, Minister for Education Batt O'Keeffe has signalled this is only an interim measure, pending the likely return of some form of college fees.

In a significant move yesterday, the Minister said he has now been mandated by the Cabinet to bring forward proposals on tuition fees.

These are expected to be ready within four months, probably early in the new year. It is expected a new fees regime will be in place by September of next year. This is likely to run in parallel with the student registration charge which will increase from an average of about €900 to €1,500.

In another significant development, the Government has decided to defer the planned increase in medical places.

The surprise move will place further pressure on CAO points levels for medicine and runs counter to proposals from a Government task force on medical education. The Budget gave no details on the next cycle of the key Programme for Research in Third Level Institutions (PRTLI).

In other developments, the National Qualifications Authority of Ireland, HETAC and FETAC, will be amalgamated. The Irish Federation of University Teachers said it was dismayed by the changes. Its general secretary Mike Jennings said the Budget revealed new evidence of the Minister's lack of empathy with the sector.

"The anticipated massive increase in third-level registration fees, elimination of child benefit for students over 18 and the abolition of the early childhood development centre and education disadvantage committee all point to a serious decline in educational opportunity for disadvantaged sectors of society."

Overall, the allocation for the Department of Education and Science is €9.6 billion, an increase of 3.2 per cent on last year's allocation. The capital allocation for next year will amount to €889 million - an increase of almost 10 per cent on 2008.

Last night, the Minister exhorted the education partners to work with him in the national interest and in the interests of education in the long term.

However ASTI general secretary John White said: "The Budget is a vote of no confidence in our young people.

"Cutting pupil-teacher ratio will mean less subject choice for students, reduced focus on science and maths education, and classes of 30 vibrant adolescents will become commonplace," he said.

TUI general secretary Peter MacMenamin said the 2.7 per cent increase in education spending was a seismic reduction in funding as it did not come near compensating for the current rate of inflation.