Higher fees will not result in better education – MacCraith

By Aishling Phelan

The President of DCU, Brian MacCraith, says that students don’t realise that the €250 increase in next year’s registration fee will not result in a higher quality education because the money will go straight to the government.

He told the College View on the day the first round of cuts was announced: ‘‘I think some students might have favoured a small increase if they felt it would result in a higher quality education but the realisation is it doesn’t come back to the universities, it goes back to the coffers of the government.’’

He said DCU “will receive no net gain whatsoever” from Budget 2012.

MacCraith is disappointed in the 2 per cent cut to core funding for higher education as it will ‘‘really make life very difficult’’ in DCU.

‘‘It makes life so difficult to keep delivering international class education to students and we’re very concerned about the impact on the students themselves and families in terms of the increased student contribution, particularly because it doesn’t add to the value of the system itself, it goes straight into the government,’’ he said.

One DCU student said in an interview with TheJournal.ie that ‘‘the 2 per cent cut to state funding for colleges will just be passed on to the students and affect the quality of the services they get.’’

MacCraith confirmed that this is not the case and said that many students are not aware of where the money from additional fees will go.

He said the one “semi-positive thing” is that the outcome of the budget “could have been a lot worse”.

‘‘We were budgeting for a range of scenarios, some of which would really have brought us into very dark territory all together.’’

MacCraith also hinted that DCU had been expecting the scrapping of postgraduate grants for some time and said that it was difficult to predict what kind of impact this will have on students.

‘‘I’m checking out how many of our students would be on grants at postgraduate level but at a time when we want to up the total education of students and maintain postgraduate degrees that cut is likely to be very damaging as well.’’

The president’s main concern is the step back the university will now take in providing a high quality education to its students.

‘‘DCU is being stretched to the limit of delivering a quality education. It’s the only thing to do to get Ireland out of this, to ensure the graduates that come through here have a high quality education and can compete internationally.’’

‘‘The fact that it could have been much worse may make students happy but I think any increase at all, particularly when it doesn’t actually get invested in the quality of education they receive, is worrying.’’

Ireland’s education budget, which accounts for 17 per cent of total State expenditure or €8.6bn, is to be cut by €132.3m in 2012.

A 2 per cent reduction in core funding for higher education will secure savings of €23.6m.

The €250 increase in the student contribution charge will save €18.5m. Changes to fees and supports for post-graduate students and the reduction of maintenance grants will deliver savings of €12.6m per year.

Pullout quote:  ‘‘We were budgeting for a range of scenarios, some of which would really have brought us into very dark territory.’’

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