On Wednesday the 28th of September, the Coalition for Publicly Funded Higher Education group, which is comprised by the USI, SIPTU, IFUT, IMPACT and TUI, at a press conference again pushed the case for publicly funded third level education. This included having a framework for how funding education would work, citing how it has worked for other countries and why it is vital for Ireland’s future.
A representative of the Coalition put forward their case to the Express, stating: “publicly funded education is a common good for every area of society – for economic, employment, tech, medical, scientific and cultural progress.” They added: “all major education unions, like the Union of Students in Ireland (USI), SIPTU, the Irish Federation of University Teachers (IFUT), IMPACT and the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) are all backing publicly funded education and against the loan scheme system. We are the organisations that are on the ground, familiar with the struggles and hurdles within the sector, and are collectively urging the government to choose the only long-term sustainable & practical option in the Cassells Report – a publicly funded third level education system.”
Several European Countries that have publicly funded third-level education have seen great results: Germany, which has 41 Universities ranked by the Times Higher Education to be among the best in the world, has a notoriously low cost for University degree courses. Similarly in France, which has fees of less than €200 per year, has 27 universities ranked among the best. The United Kingdom, which employs a similar system to the one being proposed for Ireland, saw third-level education essentially become a drain on the British economy, so much so that the loan books were eventually sold to British Banks at the end of 2013. Furthermore, according to the Institute of Fiscal Studies, as much as 70% of college graduates in 2015 in the UK are not expected to ever fully repay their college loans.
Ireland’s third level fees, which currently stand at €3165, are the second highest in Europe, only being cheaper than the UK. Germany, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland all offer publicly funded education and achieve far better results in university rankings than Ireland & the UK. The Coalition also sought to stress that the loan scheme option outlined in the Cassells report will be unsustainable in the long term, and could serve to increase emigration levels among young people and students. Furthermore, it could deter young people from applying to, or continuing with, their third level education, and could affect & disable upward social mobility.