TCD provost says return of third-level fees inevitable


A GREATER student contribution to third-level funding is inevitable, the provost of Trinity College Dublin has said.

Speaking at a TCD Philosophical Society debate entitled “Students should bear the cost of the crisis in university funding”, John Hegarty said universities needed more funding if they were to maintain their level of performance and excellence.

“Our good teachers are in high demand by our competitors overseas and I worry about that,” he added.

Mr Hegarty said that University College London, which was similar in status and tradition to TCD, received 50 per cent more investment per student than TCD did.

He continued: “We are already looking at a 10 per cent decrease in the block grant for 2009; that’s a decrease of €10 million to maintain what we are doing.”

Ferdinand Von Prondzynski, president of Dublin City University, supported the introduction of fees for students, saying “free fees were introduced for good motives and good reasons, but they had a number of consequences which were not predicted and which have not been good”.

One of the consequences was that parents reinvested the money they had anticipated on using to send their children to college into their children’s second-level education, he said.

“If it is your view that there should not be fees, and that the only source of money for higher education is the taxpayer, then there will be a dramatic decrease in funding,” he said, adding there had already been a dramatic drop in funding for higher education from taxpayers’ money in the good times of the boom.

Mr Von Prondzynski asked those present at the debate if they were going to let the higher education of this country be equal to that in developing countries.

Kiera Healy, the registrar of the TCD philosophical society, said universities such as Oxford and Cambridge did better because they had more money, which enabled them to provide students with one-on-one tutorials with professors.

Ms Healy said Irish universities can’t compete internationally without more money. She dismissed the argument that free fees has enabled more disadvantaged students to attend third-level education. “There are only two groups who stand to benefit from free fees; the more able poor students and the less able rich students, but only one group does, the less able rich students”.

Bartley Rock, education officer with the Union of Students in Ireland (USI), argued against the reintroduction of fees, saying they would cause students a lot of financial distress, and asking those present to “look at what happens to people when they are in financial distress and have financial worries”.

He said the free fees initiative had helped to lower barriers and sustain a high level of students going through third-level education in Ireland.

He was supported by Labour Party spokesman on education Ruairí Quinn, who said funding for third level should come through a system of progressive tax.

“Investment in education is a sound financial investment, there should not be a barrier to fees,” he said.