We need a debate on access to third-level
Published 20/08/2014 | 02:30
IT IS getting on for 20 years since the Rainbow Coalition first abolished third-level fees in an honest effort to improve access to college for children from less well-off backgrounds.
Since then there has been very little convincing evidence that the change has improved a poorer student's chances of third-level education. Today our education editor brings us news of the Higher Education Authority's (HEA) latest assessment along with its plans which it hopes will improve the situation.
Today's report confirms what we must have known for quite some time. In summary, if you are from a farming background you are three times more likely to go to college than the average school leaver.
Youngsters living in leafy Dublin's inner suburbs may find it hard to actually avoid going to third-level education. But for many living in the less favoured neighbourhoods of the capital, getting to college poses a major challenge.
Intriguingly, while Dublin is best served with a variety of third-level institutions offering the widest diversity of courses, the proportion of Dublin students at third level is markedly below the national average.
People in Donegal will reasonably ask why their county is the poorest represented in third level ranks. For some, it will fuel arguments that this truly is the neglected county.
The highest proportion of students making it to third level goes to western counties, Galway, Mayo and Leitrim, with 60pc. That finding speaks to the traditionally-rooted respect for the value of education in largely rural communities - but we need to also consider other factors here.
In fact, we need to consider a whole panoply of issues surrounding the future of third-level education, its funding and access to it. Such discussion is timely as the so-called "free fees" are being continually eroded and pressures grow to restore "full fees."
The HEA's next move, to open up the issue for submissions from all interested citizens, is most welcome. The accompanying argument that we need equality of educational opportunity to drive economic progress is even more welcome. Let debate begin.
Dentists have to fill the gap in prices
What cost a smile, and just how much would you be prepared to pay to deal with a toothache?
These are some important questions that arise following a survey showing that the costs of getting basic dental work done varies so much that it has been described as a lottery.
Dentists will argue that a large variation in prices is a sign of healthy competition in the profession.
They also point out that they display prices openly and most of them have had a price freeze in place for a number of years, in recognition of financial pressures on households.
But many consumers will be taken aback by just how different prices are in different counties.
An extraction costs €50 in Co Cavan, but almost double that if you have the treatment in Co Carlow, according to a survey by private healthcare search site WhatClinic.com.
People often choose a dentist on the basis of a recommendation, but the survey results mean that it would be wise to also consider the prices being charged.