Tag: college funding

Third level fees: now you see them, now you don’t!

Irish Green Party logo, via the party's websiteThe recently renegotiated Programme For Government (doc | pdf | scribd) between the Green Party and Fianna Fáil contains the following clause:

Conscious of the economic pressures on parents today, this Government will not proceed with any new scheme of student contribution for Third Level education.

So, that’s it then, the reintroduction of third-level fees is off the agenda for the lifetime of the current government.

Update: Ferdinand von Prondzynski writes that the decision

… will come back to haunt us. It is a bad decision, made for the wrong reasons. … As the taxpayer is in no position to increase funding, or even maintain the existing totally inadequate levels, we are now facing a situation where the increasingly scarce resources will be concentrated on the wealthier sections of the population and the disadvantaged will be neglected. In addition, the sector as a whole will be asset stripped and will be unable to compete. … I have been at the coalface now for a decade of trying to maintain a world class system of education with the resources that increasingly reflect the aspirations of a developing country. This decision may save votes, but will do long term damage to the sector. It is a bad day for higher education.

Protest? Yes, of course! Censor? No, absolutely not!!

FEE logo, via their websiteFree Education for Everyone (FEE) is a grassroots group of students and staff in various third level instititutions which has been set up to fight the re-introduction of fees while campaigning for genuinely free education for all. According to their About Us page:

FEE activists have organised protests, occupations and blockades across the country over the past number of months.

For example, in February of this year, their protests against former Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Bertie Ahern‘s arrival at NUI Galway led to the cancellation of a public interview with him – and I thoroughly disapproved of this at the time. Protestors must be allowed to make their point, but, by the same toke, they must not have a veto on the speech of others. Now, it seems that FEE have Bertie in their sights again, according to a press release published this afternoon:

Press Release: UCD students plan Bertie Blockade

Student campaign group, Free Education for Everyone (FEE) is planning to planning to stage a blockade of Bertie Ahern’s appearance at a debate on the Lisbon Treaty, tonight at 7pm in UCD’s O’Reilly Hall. Following a blockade of Brian Lenihan by the group last September, Martin Mansergh, Mary Hannafin and Conor Lenihan were forced to pull out of other scheduled appearances at the college. …

FEE have more information about tonight’s protest and their earlier actions on their website. I deplore the fact that their protests have meant not only that Ahern could not speak in Galway, but that Brian Lenihan, Martin Mansergh, Mary Hannafin and Conor Lenihan could not speak in UCD. There is, to say the least, an irony in preventing debate in a university. The best answer to speech is more speech – discussion might not change the other person’s mind but it can influence the neutral or undecided observer in a way that shrillness never could. As a consequence, whilst I am sympathetic to FEE’s objectives and agree with their views about Ahern, I cannot condone their methods. FEE must be allowed to make their point; but, by the same token, they must not be allowed to prevent Ahern from making his. They should certainly make their protest, but they must not censor someone espousing an opposing view. More than that, I hope that those organising tonight’s debate on the Lisbon Treaty in UCD will be active in the defence and support of freedom of expression, and take all necessary steps to ensure that Ahern will not have to pull out.

Universities’ Declaration of Independence? – again

Mortar board, from TCD site.A little while ago I mused that Irish universities seeking the freedom to set their own fees might decide to declare independence from government not just on fees but on all matters. But I thought then that it would never happen. However, the old adage “never say never” occurred to me this morning, reading the following story in THE [with added links]:

Privatise top 5 and let us form UK Ivy League says Imperial rector

The rector of Imperial College London wants the institution to go private and join four other Russell Group universities in an independent US-style Ivy League. Professor Sir Roy Anderson told the Evening Standard that privatisation would allow Imperial, the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, the London School of Economics and University College London to fulfil their economic promise.

“If you take the top five universities, they have enormous potential to earn income for Britain. How best to do that? My own view would be to privatise them,” he told the paper. “The trouble is all British universities are too dependent on Government. You don’t want to be subject to the mores of government funding or changing educational structures.”

Privatisation would allow Imperial and the other four “elite” institutions to set their own unlimited tuition fees and take more overseas students, he said. …

More here, here and here.

So, what would be shorthand for the this elite top 5? “The Premiership” seems currently in vogue. Or what about “The Famous Five”? Should (some of?) the Irish universities go the same way? And if so, what should be the shorthand for them? “The Shamrock League”? Or perhaps auction the naming rights? More seriously, even though the proposal is cast in current jargon, there may be something to it. It is certainly an important suggestion; and Sir Roy is to be commended for beginning the debate, even if the proposal is at present an unpopular one.

Hecklers must not have a veto

I’m very disappointed with the Literary and Debating Society of NUI Galway. Having wrapped themselves in the mantle of freedom of expression over their invitation to David Irving, they let the mantle slip last night. Having invited former Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Bertie Ahern to a public interview, the event had to be abandoned because of protests by students opposing the reintroduction of college fees (see Belfast Telegraph | GalwayNews.ie | Indymedia | Irish Times | Ninth Level Ireland | RTÉ here and here | YouTube (above left)). The Auditor of the Lit & Deb, Dan Colley, is reported to have said that he was “disappointed” at the turn of events, and concluded

This was a failure of freedom of speech.

No, Dan, this was a failure on the part of the Lit & Deb to protect the process of freedom of speech. Freedom of speech is not self-executing. Those who claim to support it have a duty to do so actively. It’s not enough to say free speech is important; it is necessary to be active in its defence and support. If a society such as the Lit & Deb invites controversial speakers, making a grab for the headlines, then that society must ensure that the controversial speakers actually have the opportunity to speak. Otherwise, the hecklers in a hostile audience will have a veto on the speakers. And the heckler’s veto is antithetical to freedom of speech. Hence, the US Supreme Court has rejected it as inconsistent with the freedom of expression guarantees in the First Amendment (see Feiner v New York 340 US 315 (1951); Hill v Colorado 530 US 703 (2000)).

The Lit & Deb should therefore have protected the process of freedom of speech last night by ensuring that Bertie Ahern’s interview went ahead. And they should take active steps to ensure that, having invited David Irving, he actually gets to speak. Anything else would be a failure of freedom of speech, and it would lie at the feet not of the hecklers but of the Lit & Deb.

Update (4 February 2009): from today’s Irish Times: College to investigate Ahern protest; Students to hold street protest over return of fees and cuts to assistance; Third-level capital programmes targeted in €56m cutback plan.

University fees are looking inevitable

TCD Phil logo, via their site.The question of the return of university fees has been a concern of this blog for some time (see, eg, here, here, here). Via the invaluable Ninth Level Ireland, I learn of three stories this morning on the issue. Cumulatively, they seem to suggest that university fees are looking inevitable (which, I suspect, means that the Minister for Education has managed this debate very well indeed, initially trailing an idea for discussion, then preparing the public for them, and now sitting back while the debate is broadly about what form they should take). (more…)

Speak for yourself, Brian

I’m all for freedom of speech, but until there is a realistic possibility of having to decide about this issue, my good friend Brian Lucey is on his own.

Maman Poulet reports

TV3 News
Image via Wikipedia

Academics and pay cuts

Associate Professor of Finance at TCD, Dr. Brian Lucey, was on Nightly News with Vincent Browne (TV3) tonight [ed: that was last night; extracts from the show are available here] saying he would not mind taking a pay cut as he’s a very well paid public sector worker and can afford to do so. Of course he also thinks others should follow his lead.

I imagine it might be a bit frosty in Senior Common Room tomorrow as he takes his coffee. Some of the more lowly or maybe that should be less onscreen academics might have a bone or two to pick. And others might point to media appearance fees and column remittances that Dr. Lucey may be earning as a result of the bank crisis that make it ok for him to take a cut.

Is there an appetite for pay cuts in Irish academia I have not yet heard about?

Footnote on Fees and Funding

Student finance logo, via their siteAs the debate about the reintroduction of some form of third level fees rumbles on (and on, and on), the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) – a UK think tank established in 2002 with the laudable aim of ensuring that higher education policy development in the UK is informed by research and by knowledge of the experience of others – has just published a report by Juliet Chester and Bahram Bekhradnia on Financial support in English universities: the case for a national bursary scheme. (more…)