There are three major problems with our higher education sector – access, funding and an increasingly corporatized agenda in terms of curricula and university structures. A study by the Higher Education Authority for the academic year 2015-16 showed that teenagers from the wealthiest parts of Dublin have a 95% chance of making it to third level whilst in Dublin 17 this falls to less than 20%.22 This effects life chances in a decisive way and makes a mockery of the idea that Ireland values equality of opportunity.
To make sure everyone has access to life-long learning we would:
- Abolish all fees including the ‘registration fee’ which has been used to introduce charges through the back door.
- Guarantee access to students from low income backgrounds by restoring proper maintenance grants.
- Extend the back to education scheme and increase investment in third level education to allow people to retrain.
- Subsidise accommodation for students who have to travel to go to university.
- Re-coup some of the costs by insisting that students in key areas such as medicine, engineering and science who work for the public sector do not expect salaries of more than €80,000.
To reduce the corporate influence we would:
- Challenge the move away from general academic studies to modular programmes which deliver specific skills and learning outcomes, devised to enhance ‘human capital’ for employers.
- Direct funding towards a more critical university and information technology system with collaboration between students, lectures and other members of staff.
- Give employees more autonomy, reduce the bureaucratization of the university system and increase the role of lecturing and non-lecturing staff in managing the university.
- A one year sabbatical scheme to be made available to teachers to engage in upskilling/professional development/education.
- Reduce corporate influence on research by redirecting money from R&D tax credits corporations receive to the university sector in order to do blue sky research.
2019 Policy Interventions
- Invest in a National Childcare Service
- Hire 25,000 Childcare Professionals
- Reduce Pupil Teacher Ratio from 1:27 to 1:22
- Increase funding for Special Education Provision in 2016 by 15%
- Abolish fees for third level students – both capitation and tuition
- Abolish fees for all EU postgraduate students
- Increase student grants to their highest historical levels
- Build affordable student accommodation