Peter Cassells: We owe it to our young population not to squabble over options
Published 12/07/2016 | 02:30
A crucial element of this report relates to access. It should be said that nobody in my immediate family went to third-level education.
Yet almost everybody in the next generation of my extended family have gone on to third level.
So there's been a huge revolution there - but we need to ensure that extends to all areas.
As somebody from that background, I was shocked when the figures were thrown up of 99pc of people in Dublin 6 going to higher level education and only 10pc in Dublin 15 going on to higher education.
As part of the country's overall social contract in the future, that's not acceptable.
In relation to the debate that will now open up on the back of the publication of this report, it must be accepted that things need to change. There's a danger that in looking at the three options, people may rule each one out, because each has a negative aspect.
But what's not possible is to stick with the status quo. Because if we stick with the status quo as it is at the moment, our system will continue to deteriorate and we wouldn't be doing our children any favours at all by allowing that to happen.
We have a big opportunity by the mere fact we have a very young population. Our higher education system, further education and apprenticeships will grow by over one-third in the next 10-15 years, and we need to ensure those people now have the opportunities to take the country to the next stage of its development. Really it's up to us to try together to figure out what are the best ways of funding that in an equitable way.
We need to do that in a way that recognises that we still have problems with our public finances, but also recognises people's incomes are still being rebuilt, and that the cost of going to college is still a huge difficulty.
Remember, other countries are investing quite significant money into education, because it is key for them to move to the next phase of development.
I believe there is a big opportunity for this country. We have a very young population, the envy of many other countries, and we shouldn't squabble over the options. We should work together in a problem-solving way to get the best and fairest result.
Then we should use that money to invest heavily - while the universities, the institutes of technology, further education and those providing apprenticeships should be held to account for the outcomes.
Peter Cassells is chairman of the Expert Group on Future Funding of Higher Education