THE PRESIDENT of Dublin City University (DCU), Professsor Fedinand von Prondzynksi, has expressed his support for the re-introduction of third-level fees, as proposed by Minister for Education, Batt O’Keefe.
Speaking to The University Observer, Prof. von Prondzynksi said that one of the reasons he supports the re-introduction of fees is that Irish universities have had “dramatic cuts in their grants from the Government over the last year or two… and we’re now in a position where the sector probably is no longer really viable.”
Prof. von Prondzynksi explained that Irish universities have been required to “pick up and absorb the cost of the fees rather than the Government” and stated that taxpayers’ money is not sufficient to make third-level education a “quality sector”. Prof. von Prondzynksi also explained that the free fees scheme neglects those from a disadvantaged backgrounds.
“The most disadvantaged areas in Ireland… still have an appallingly low take up rate in higher education,”, the DCU President explained. “The money which should be spent on both attracting people from those areas into universities and supporting them while they’re there, are actually being spent instead on giving free fees to middle-class students.”
“So since there is a limited amount of money available, a significant majority of that has been given to wealthier people, which is why you could argue that the free fees scheme, even if well meant, was in fact a very significant redistribution of resources, from the poor to the rich.”
In relation to having financial thresholds in place if fees were introduced, Prof. von Prondzynsk said that he can see the purpose behind having such thresholds but argued that “however logical or desirable such thresholds sound in theory, they would be completely unworkable in practice.”
In Prof. von Prondzynksi’s view, fees “should be set in such a way that they are levied on everyone… but universities are charged with re-distributing some of the resources they gain by that to ensure that they provide grants and scholarships.” He also believes that the introduction of fees would not significantly affect student numbers.
Prof. von Prondzynski said if fees were re-introduced, there is always the risk that “the money generated from that would be clawed back by the Government.” Despite this, he believes that bringing back fees would still be a better proposition in the long term.