Third-level fees an option: O'Keeffe

Thursday 12 March 2009 17.17
Batt O'Keeffe - Preparing report on college fees for Cabinet
Batt O'Keeffe - Preparing report on college fees for Cabinet

The Education Minister has said the re-introduction of third-level fees is one of many options being considered by Government.

Batt O'Keeffe is preparing a report for Cabinet on the issue and said an increase in student participation at third-level has implications for the Exchequer.

He said the report, which is being finalised, looks at fees and a loan system, and will ensure the onus does not fall on a particular part of society.

Mr O'Keeffe said he would like the Government to family-proof whatever measures are being taken.

Minister O'Keeffe also said the Government knows exactly how many prefabs are in use in schools. He said he would focus on reducing the number of such facilities in use.

He said the vast majority of prefabs are state-of-the-art facilities and not as rundown as has been suggested.

He said schools are being offered the opportunity to build permanent classrooms rather than put prefabs in place.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen said any proposals on fees will be considered by the Government and the issue could be discussed after the emergency budget.

Finding a sustainable way forward in terms of education investment in light of falling tax take was the key for the Government, he added.

He said when decisions are made people will be informed of them through the budget process.

Meanwile, the head of the country's Institutes of Technology has said the formal re-introduction of third level fees could have serious negative repercussions for the sector.

Michael Carmody told the Oireachtas Committee on Education and Science there could be a significant migration of students from the Republic to colleges in the UK if new fees are brought in.

He also said the student-loan system should be examined.

Speaking before the same Oireachtas committee, the head of the group representing teacher training colleges said the debate surrounding the re-introduction of fees was one of public policy and political choice.

Dr Pauric Travers said his organisation did not have a collective view on the matter but said it was concerned about the impact the return of fees would have on access for certain groups.

USI reacts

The Union of Students in Ireland has said it is 'fundamentally opposed to the return of tuition fees under any guise'.

In a statement issued this afternoon, the organisation said it was opposed to the 'commoditisation of education' and says fees would act as a barrier to third level education for many students.

The union says that 'the only barometer by which one should be measured, is potential, not ones potential to pay.'