Seanad debates

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

10:40 am

Photo of Sean BarrettSean Barrett (Independent) | Oireachtas source

Referring to the Grant Thornton report, today's edition of The Irish Timescarries the headline: "A failure to attract international students at the root of third level crisis, says report". Attracting foreign students is very difficult to do. A major effort to attract foreign students to the United Kingdom brings in about 11% of the student fees. There are problems given that India has devalued its currency heavily and in the United States this is seen as the Pacific generation. On several occasions, plane-loads of people from the Department of Education and Skills, other bodies and universities have gone to China on this measure, but it is not easily done.
In Ireland, there is the added issue that because we have an increasing number of young people, there is a danger of displacement and the sons and daughters of Irish taxpayers may have less opportunity to attend if we go down that route.
Another concern is the statement in the report: “Effective change management or management of the 'people side' of change will therefore be crucial for institutions considering adopting any of the options proposed.” After almost a decade of so-called change management, we need to get back to basics, which means communicating the knowledge from the lecturer to 40, 50 or up to 400 young people in the class. There are too many layers of management and I would not support another one.

With the two Bills the Minister is preparing and the Bill we had last week, we are moving towards a situation when we can have an informed debate on the future of third level education. We must be careful to avoid some of the problems that have arisen in the United Kingdom, where the student loan programme is insolvent and some 40% of graduates will never earn enough to repay the average £9,000 per year cost of their third level education. A great deal of discussion is required, which I hope will be facilitated during the debates on the two forthcoming Bills and the one already before the House. Such a discussion is timely in the context of the conference taking place in the autumn, organised by the university heads, to discuss whether current funding models are sustainable. I certainly would caution against increased managerialism. In my view, it is the problem, not the solution.


No comments

Log in or join to post a public comment.