Sir, The news that UCD has decided to defer to 1997 its special initiative to provide university places for students from disadvantaged backgrounds makes for disappointing reading. It comes, however, as no great surprise. Lack of resources is cited as the reason. Lack of commitment to educational equality is nearer the mark. The older universities will never win prizes for championing the underdog.
But this Labour Minister for Education has made it all too easy for UCD to take the easy option. Her policy decisions in the continuation and third level area are directed firmly away from alleviating educational disadvantage. She has thumbed her nose at research by respected authors like Dr Clancy and cocked a snoot at the recommendations of her own Higher Education Authority report on "The Future Development of Higher Education".
What does our exemplar of egalitarianism do? Ms Bhreathnach announces an RTC for Dun Laoghaire, which has an admission rate to third level education of 45 per cent, and her cabinet colleague, Mr Lowry, gets one for Thurles, Co Tipperary - admission rate 36 per cent. The comparable figures for Finglas/ Ballymun are 17.5 per cent and Priorswood/Darndale 6.4 per cent.
This is the same Minister who has introduced a free university fees policy. She has, of course, left the level of maintenance grants virtually untouched. In doing so she has ensured that there will be no influx of students from disadvantaged backgrounds into college. She has sat on her hands and refused to address the issue of maintenance grants for PLC students. She has even refused to abolish examination fees for Junior and Leaving Certificate examinations. Last year she slashed 1,000 VTOS places and refuses to address the issue of maintenance grants for PLC students. She has even refused to abolish examination fees for Junior and Leaving Certificate examinations. She continues to ignore the plight of part time and evening students. A Minister of undoubted crusading zeal! I think not. - Yours, etc.,