Report delay shows ‘lack of urgency’

SEÁN FLYNN

THE LONG delay in publishing the Hunt report is “sadly indicative of the lack of urgency within the Department of Education to confront a range of important issues”, according to Labour’s Ruairí Quinn.

The report was commissioned almost two years ago and finalised in July.

Mr Quinn said yesterday the report was particularly vague on the controversial issue of undergraduate fees. “It fails to recognise that students already make a direct financial contribution for part-time and postgraduate courses and that all undergraduates currently pay a €1,500 student charge, which will rise to €2,000 next September,” he said.

The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) expressed concern about any new student fees and loans. USI president Gary Redmond pointed out that Ireland spent a smaller percentage of GDP on education than almost all other OECD countries.

“All public services have to be paid for; however, education and particularly third-level should be seen as a capital investment that will pay for itself many times over during the working lives of the graduates.”

The seven university presidents – represented by the Irish University Association – welcomed the report which they said “recognises the fundamental strengths of our system while also highlighting challenges and opportunities”.

The presidents reaffirmed their support for a new system of student loans based on income after graduation. They said planning for the introduction of such a system should not be delayed by immediate fiscal concerns.

Peter MacMenamin of the Teachers’ Union of Ireland said the report betrayed a fundamental misunderstanding of the workload of institutes of technology lecturers. He also described the concept of technological universities as “underdeveloped and confused”.

Prof Nicholas Canny, president of the Royal Irish Academy, said there was “a need for a revolution” in undergraduate teaching.

“The Hunt report rightly identifies a student’s first year as being key to a quality undergraduate experience and recognises that many students now entering higher education lack the necessary skills to successfully engage with higher education,” Prof Canny added.

The Irish Times – Wednesday, January 12, 2011

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