The reintroduction of third level fees has been shelved under the new Programme for Government. Green Party members voted overwhelmingly in favour of the new programme, which includes a commitment from the government not to proceed with third level charges.
However, there has been speculation that university registration fees may increase to help fund the higher education sector. Speaking on RTÉ radio, Green Party Leader John Gormley (pictured) said that there is no intention to re-introduce tuition fees, but that increasing registration fees is a matter for the individual universities.
UCD Students’ Union, along with other students’ unions around the country, have been lobbying the Green Party TDs to reject government proposals to reinstitute higher education charges. Plans for third level fees had included a graduate loan system similar to that adopted in Australia.
UCD SU President Gary Redmond issued a statement on the result, congratulating the Green Party for accepting the Programme for Goverment and the stay on re-introducing fees. Redmond also said “the Green Party has upheld its principle of free education” and that they “have secured the fate of the next generation of Irish students”.
The Programme for Government was accepted by the Green Party at a conference in the RDS on Saturday 10th October, when members voted by a majority of 84 per cent to abide by the deal. UCD SU and representatives from the Union of Students in Ireland and students’ unions around the country travelled to the conference to lobby the members to accept the programme, which had been negotiated between the Green Party and Fianna Fáil the previous evening.
A statement issued by USI welcomed the news that the Programme for Government “will not include a return, in any guise, of third level fees.” It also stated that opposition to fees is the “core mantra” of USI and called on the government to “ensure that the issue of tuition fees is not raised again”. USI President Peter Mannion said he was glad “that the Greens have honoured their word and would not allow fees to return.” He went on the say that the news will come as “some relief” to students and parents in Ireland.
As well as the issue of fees, the Programme for Government also highlighted other key concerns for the higher education sector. The deal proposes to “develop Higher Education Strategy” and to “examine the potential for greater co-operation and/or amalgamations between institutions to enhance the system-wide performance reflecting the current economic reality”.
They also propose the establishment of a new statutory agency which will carry out the functions of National Qualifications Authority of Ireland, Higher Education and Training Awards Council and Further Education and Training Awards Council.