Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Education Charlie McConalogue has expressed his shock at the attack on the higher education and further education and training sectors, at a time when we should be encouraging as many young people as possible to stay in education. The measures announced today will hit the most disadvantaged school leavers hardest.

Deputy McConalogue commented, “The decision to increase the student contribution fee by €250 again in 2013 may have been well flagged, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that Minister Quinn is overseeing the largest increase in student fees of any Minister for Education. Ruairí Quinn lied to students to get elected and he must now take responsibility for the choices he has made.

“The Minister has also chosen to increase the amount that students are asked to pay at third level, while at the same time removing €25 million in resources from a sector that is in desperate need of increased funding. The model being pursued by Minister Quinn is wholly unfair as it limits access for those from middle and low income families, while failing to address the sector’s funding deficit.

“Not only will students find it increasingly expensive to attend college, they will also now find it even more difficult to qualify for a student maintenance grant following a 3% reduction in income thresholds for student grants. This is a disgraceful decision by the Minister in light of the ongoing crisis with student grant delays.

“Minister Quinn’s attack on the further education and training sector has come as a bolt out of the blue. The Minister’s decision to implement a 2 point PTR increase in PLC schools, the removal of training allowances for further education and training programmes and also the significant reduction in allocation to VECs will hit the most disadvantaged students hardest, in particular early school leavers. 

“On the 6th difficult budget in row, I find it incredible that Minister Quinn would state that VECs and third level institutions would ‘have money in their reserves’ to offset his budget cuts.  I am calling on the Minister to publish details of the reserves he claims are residing with the VECs and third level institutions.  The unfortunate truth is that in reality, students will end up paying for these cuts.

“Further details are needed from the Minister in relation to the 20,000 students that are expected to enter our schools over the next year, in light of the fact that no extra funds have allocated to accommodate the increase in numbers. The Minister must make clear what services will be cut to fund increased student numbers.

“Fianna Fáil believes that it simply isn’t possible to inflict a further €90 million in cuts to the education sector without doing real damage to education standards, undermining economic growth and increasing inequality.   This is why we insisted on protecting education funding within our budget proposal, A Fairer Way to Recovery.”