Minister for Education, Ruairí Quinn has rejected that a student loan system or a ‘graduate tax’ will be introduced in the budget.
Minister Quinn, who was addressing the heads of Irish colleges and universities in the Department of Education last Thursday, said he is “not actively considering any measures at the present time”.
“My focus is on looking at the overall landscape, looking at duplication, and possible synergies, and all those kind of things so that we get a more accurate picture of what the sustainable cost will be.”
At the briefing, the minister outlined his four priorities for reforming higher education ahead of next week’s budget. These priorities are strengthening the university system, developing and consolidating of the Institute of Technology sector, the formation of regional clusters between universities, stronger institutes of technology and future technological universities, and increased sustainability and capacity in the higher education system.
Speaking at the briefing Minister Quinn said: “The harsh reality is that as a country we can no longer afford to indulge plans that are not based on credible and realistic analysis of likely outcomes.”
The brief also discussed the recommendations that rose from the National Strategy for Higher Education and the Hunt Report, which aim to modernise the third-level sector.
The minister urged Ireland’s third-level institutions to “take a long hard look at their future sustainability” and called on them to co-operate more in order to improve the college experience for students.
“I appeal to institutional leaders to put narrow institutional considerations aside and approach this new phase with a greater national perspective.”
Minister Quinn was also keen to stress that providing a quality experience for students was not necessarily all down to funding. Instead, he insisted that it could be provided by “the best utilisation of academic staff and resources”.
“Consolidation and collaboration bring opportunity to pool expertise, concentrate resources, improve choice and enhance the quality of the student experience.
“There is clearly unnecessary duplication of course provision, both in universities and in the institutes of technology and indeed between the two sectors.”
IMAGE CREDIT: Labour Youth