No return to fees at third level, promises minister
EDUCATION Minister Mary Coughlan insisted last night that there would be no reintroduction of college fees in the lifetime of this Government.
She is currently waiting on a final report on the development and funding of third-level education over the next 20 years.
"That decision will not be in the lifetime of this Government," she said, in relation to third-level fees.
Ms Coughlan continued: "That is the Government's commitment. It is in the Programme for Government.
"Any decision on the future of third-level education over the next 20 years will have to be considered by Government."
Ms Coughlan said that while there had been a lot of "fear factors" about cash-strapped colleges not making enough student places available this year, they had worked hard to ensure that extra students would be accommodated.
She also ruled out any drastic changes to the Leaving Cert and said the points race was here to stay as the "fairest way" of assessing students' abilities.
The minister's defence of the Leaving Cert system comes after in-depth research by the Economic and Social Research Institute revealed that thousands of sixth-year pupils were suffering high levels of stress and losing sleep worrying about the exam and their chances of getting into college.
But Ms Coughlan bluntly claimed that everyone in life had to deal with pressure.
"The harsh reality is that over your lifetime, you will always have pressure. The Leaving Certificate was examined in 1999, when we looked at the issue of points," she said.
"It was decided that there could be consideration of another type of opportunity but that clearly the most transparent and fairest was the Leaving Certificate and the points we presently have."
With thousands of students due to receive their exam results today, Ms Coughlan advised them to take time out between now and the CAO offers next Monday to talk to guidance counsellors and seek advice.
"My advice to young people . . . is take your time and consider what your options are going to be."
She added that there were now "huge opportunities" in further-education colleges if students did not get their first preferences.