Poll on third-level fees is a smokescreen

 

Sir, – Your article “State and students ‘should bear cost’ of third-level education” (News, March 4th) raises questions as to why the Higher Education Authority decided to ask the public how higher education should be funded and on the methodology of the opinion poll.

The poll finding that 28 per cent of the costs should be borne by “the individual taking the degree or their family” fails to take into account the actual costs involved, the varying costs between higher education institutions and the very different costs associated with different faculties at higher level. Would students pay different fees depending on their college or course?

In 2016, the Expert Group on the Funding of Higher Education, chaired by Peter Cassells, produced a detailed report on funding options for the sector. It remains gathering dust on Government shelves. The Oireachtas Committee on Education and Skills has also failed to conclude discussions on funding issues.

State funding of higher education has shown a steady and very significant deterioration over the past decade, while student numbers soared and staffing levels failed to keep pace. Irish students already pay €3,000 a year to attend college, the highest in the EU apart from the UK .

The solution to the very clear funding crisis for our universities lies in restoration of State investment to meaningful levels. While other sources of funding, including from business, philanthropy and foreign students can make a contribution, they should not be portrayed as an equally valid option to deliver a funding model for higher education.

The HEA would be better served in demanding decisions and action by Government instead of wasting taxpayers’ money on opinion polls which do little more than create a smokescreen on the real issues. – Yours, etc,

JOAN DONEGAN,

General Secretary,

Irish Federation

of University Teachers,

Merrion Square,

Dublin 2.