Ireland can’t afford to continue underfunding third-level education because talent is the country’s “greatest asset,” according to the President of the University of Limerick.
It comes after the University College Cork President John O’Halloran suggested student fees should be increased because the current €3,000 annual payment is lower than the fees charged by some private secondary schools.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, the President of University of Limerick President Kersten Mey said the funding for third-level education is “not sufficient” – but insisted students should not be asked to pick up the slack.
“I think if you look at the student fees, it depends on what you are comparing it with,” she said.
“Yes you pay more for some private schools but if you compare the student fees – the student contribution – in Ireland to the student contribution in other European countries, Ireland has the highest rate of student contribution.
“So, it is a matter of looking at who is funding higher education and how.”
She noted that the 2016 Cassell’s Report outlined three options for third-level funding:
- The current mix of state funding and student contributions
- A predominantly state-funded model
- An income-contingent student loan system
Professor Mey said the one thing we can’t do is continue on as we are.
“Ireland can’t afford that because talent is Ireland’s greatest asset and therefore you have to fund education and research appropriately,” she said.
“I think that really calls for a look at the new social contract i.e who contributes to that funding?
“Is it the State alone, is it the students who benefit from the education through their professional development opportunities or is it the industries and other agencies who should also contribute more towards the real upskilling enabling that third-level education provides.”
She said the experience in other countries has highlighted the problems with a student loan system.
“The State needs to invest in education and research,” she said.
“That is absolutely vital to allow third-level institutions to develop their facilities, their equipment and their education and research offers in line with needs.
“I do not favour a system of student loans and I say that from the experience in other countries. I do think, and I have said before, that education is a public good and I favour significant support by the State for education.”