Labour won't reveal position on college fees until after election
The Labour Party won't confirm its position on the raising of third-level fees until after the General Election.
Education Minister Jan O'Sullivan said the party "will have a debate" about the possibility of hiking third-level fees and introducing a loan system for parents - but it won't take place until after polling day.
Peter Cassells, the chair of the Government's advisory group on third-level fees, is currently preparing a report into how third-level education will be paid for.
Asked by reporters yesterday if Labour would increase student fees, should the so-called Cassells Report flag it as an option, Ms O'Sullivan said: "We are not ruling anything either in or out. We want to have that debate."
Labour has pledged to cut college fees by €500 in the next Budget, "to take some of the pressure off parents".
The Limerick TD said: "At the same time, that debate (over fees and a loan system) will be held, and there will be need to focus on the funding of higher education in particular."
"That is a very important debate for the future of this country and its one that needs to be had," she said.
Asked if Labour would implement raising college fees, she said: "Labour is going to wait until we get that report."
Ms O'Sullivan said Labour's position ahead of the General Election is "there shouldn't be barriers to access to higher education".
"But we are not going to pre-judge the outcome of the Cassells Report," she added.
In their manifesto, the Labour Party has committed to reducing the third-level student contribution fee to €2,500 a year and to increase funding to higher education institutes by €100m.
It also plans to introduce 100,000 new places in free part-time third-level education.
The party wants to put in place a new student support fund for those seeking postgraduate qualifications.
Ms O'Sullivan said: "Only Labour has the vision, the experience and the determination to deliver a better education system for all our people.
"However, we do not claim to have a monopoly of wisdom."
She said one of the "great strengths" of the Irish system was the level of engagement between various education bodies.
"Labour believes that the views of parents, students, teachers, lecturers and special needs assistants are vital as we transform education for the 21st Century.
"That is why we are proposing to establish a National Education Convention within 100 days of the new government being formed," she said.