Fianna Fáil Seanad Education Spokesperson Senator Averil Power has responded to the suite of policies announced today which will limit access to third level and undermine national recovery.


Senator Power commented, “For fourteen years, the Labour Party has styled itself as the party of third level education. However, nine months after entering government it is now clear that this image is not rooted in reality.  It has taken three decisions that will significantly restrict the ability of young people and the unemployed to go on to third level.


“The Government has today announced that it intends to increase the student contribution fee by €250 in 2012, abolish supports for postgraduate students entering college next year apart from some limited circumstances, cut student maintenance grants by 3%, and they have also announced that a capital asset test will be introduced in 2013 making it more difficult for farming families and the self-employed to qualify for any student support.


“Labour is the party who said only nine months ago that they would “reverse the €500 increase in the Student Services Charge and the €200 charge for Post Leaving Certificate courses” and that it was “opposed to third-level fees by either the front or back doors”. These were all promises that Labour made in full knowledge of the fiscal situation.


“About 40% of all full time postgrad students – some 9,000 this year – currently have their fees paid by the state and also qualify for maintenance grants. The Government’s proposal to abolish these grants represents a retrograde step that will damage the knowledge economy. Postgrad students provide real value for money as students advance their qualifications rather than the State paying them to be on the dole.


Senator Power concluded, “Ruairí Quinn said last year that the decision to increase fees is counter-productive and will make it even harder for students to further their education. Today we see a number of further obstacles being placed in their way that will reduce further the chances of young people and unemployed going on to higher education.


“Ireland currently has the highest tertiary attainment rate among 25-34 year olds in the EU. Minister Quinn’s decisions look set to reverse the huge progress that has been made in increasing participation at third level. Who would have thought that it would be a Labour Education Minister who would raise the bar, restricting access to third level education participation?”