Friday 22 November 2019

Figures just don't add up for Ruairi Quinn

THE spectacle of governments breaking their election promises often tends to induce a degree of malicious pleasure in the onlookers.

But in the case of Ruairi Quinn, from whom much has been expected and much is still expected, it is simply sad. How could a man of the new Education Minister's intelligence and experience have persuaded himself that he could run his department without fresh impositions on students and their parents?

The only possible answer is the euphoria that affects politicians during election campaigns. The euphoria always dissipates quickly; this time, more quickly than usual. In an important speech yesterday, Mr Quinn admitted that, contrary to a campaign promise, he has to raise the student registration fee by €500, to €2,000.

He left open a larger issue, the return of tuition fees. But the signs are gloomy. In England, universities are to charge tuition fees ranging from £6,000 to £9,000. It is thought that most will set them at the top figure. Half of that could deny a third-level education to many from low-income Irish families.

Yet nobody can ignore the stark fact that Irish higher education is under-funded -- by €500m a year, according to last year's Hunt Report. And nobody can deny the overwhelming importance of education in regard to our prospects of economic recovery and long-term prosperity. Somehow Mr Quinn must find a way to square the circle. He deserves the support of his government colleagues, but he will have to forget election promises.

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