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No new student fee hikes until 2015


EDUCATION Minister Ruairi Quinn yesterday ruled out any further increase in student fees up to 2015.

He said he had given notice that the current charge would rise to €3,000 by 2015 to give parents certainty and "that is all that is going to happen in that space".

Mr Quinn was speaking to the Irish Independent amid new warnings from the Higher Education Authority (HEA) of a funding crisis in third level.

The HEA is preparing a report for the minister, which is expected to conclude that college students should be paying more for their education.

Separately, the seven Irish universities are also working on a report on ways to fund higher education that will likely include a call for higher contributions from families that can afford to pay.

It is a sticky topic for the minister, who made a pre-election pledge not to re-introduce third-level fees, but he is under growing pressure because of the predicted 20pc rise in student numbers in coming years.

The current €2,000 student charge -- rising to €2,250 in September -- is well below the actual cost of funding a year's college education, which averages €7,000. Re-introducing fees could see the student contribution rise to €5000-€6,000 a year.

HEA chief executive Tom Boland yesterday repeated his warning about the funding crisis, saying: "I am absolutely saying that the level of investment in the medium to long term won't be sufficient to meet demand for higher education."

He said colleges were no better off because of the increases in the current student contribution, which had been offset by a reduction in the state grant to the higher education institutions.

"We cannot continue with policy where we are decreasing funding and increasing participation", he said.

Meanwhile, a separate report on funding being prepared by the seven Irish universities will also call for a higher contribution, from families who can afford to pay.

Meanwhile, the Irish Universities Association is working on proposals, expected to be published later this year to address the sustainability issue

It is understood the paper will propose a range of initiatives in education and research funding. Dublin City University (DCU) president Professor Brian MacCraith said yesterday the system was at "tipping point" because of the increase in student numbers and decline in Government funding.

They needed a new deal between Government and universities, to free up colleges to deliver for students and the economy as well as widening the funding base from a range of sources including individuals, philanthropists and commercial sources.

Irish Independent