Fianna Fáil has accused the Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn of piling even more pressure on students, while failing to provide any answers whatsoever to the third level funding crisis.
The party’s Education Spokesperson Charlie McConalogue described as ‘disappointing and underwhelming’ Minister Quinn’s comments at a conference of third level officials in Dublin today.
“This was flagged as a significant policy announcement with the Minister due to ‘outline his vision for the reform of Higher Education in Ireland’. In reality it was nothing of the sort,” said Deputy McConalogue.
Fianna Fáil Seanad Spokesperson on Education Averil Power explained, “The Minister could offer no solutions to the funding crisis in the third level sector. He had no new information about his Department’s plans for reform of the sector beyond what has already been published in the Hunt report. He had no answers to the challenges facing Universities. In fact, the only straight answer that he could provide was to confirm that he will hike the student registration fee to €3,000.
“In addition to increasing the student service charge, the Minister stated today that he plans to reduce the number of colleges offering popular courses like business and engineering. This will mean more students having to travel to do such courses, with the extra costs associated with living away from home. Yet he gave no commitments in relation to helping families to meet those costs. Without sufficient financial support for students, the Minister’s plans will simply push higher education out of the reach of many families,” she said.
Deputy McConalogue accused Minister Quinn of taking a hands-off approach to critical issues facing college students.
“Once again Minister Quinn is pre-occupied only by giving the impression of being a ‘reforming Minister’, while having absolutely no detail and no follow through. Students have already suffered as a result Ruairí Quinn’s obsession with spin over substance, as we saw relation in relation to the SUSI crisis.
“The only clarity the Minister could provide today was about his plans to increase fees. When questioned about the impact on students of centralising areas of third level teaching, the Minister had no plans to provide supports for those will be forced to travel extra long distances as a result.
“We need to see more from Minister Quinn than just big ideas with no follow through. But unfortunately today’s ‘announcement’ was not the turning point we had hoped, and will serve only to add to the stress of hard-pressed students,” said Deputy McConalogue.