The President of the Union of Students in Ireland (USI), Kevin Donoghue, said tonight that Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union President, Lynn Ruane, was “right” regarding speculation that a government-supported loan scheme is to be recommended by the upcoming government working group report.
In response to a question from The University Times about the failure of a motion put forward by Ruane at last night’s TCDSU Council that would have mandated the union to oppose the introduction of government-supported student loans, Donoghue said: “I think that Lynn is right in terms of what the conversation around income-contingent loans has been in Ireland.”
Asked about the increasing speculation that the working group will recommend a loan scheme, Donoghue said that the conversation “has been dominated by the question: ‘how do we introduce loan schemes?’, as opposed to ‘how do we fund third-level sustainably?’”
“Even within that,” he said, “it’s ‘how do I increase the amount of money my institution receives?’ as opposed to ‘how do we fund third-level education over a period of time?’”
Donoghue was speaking at a USI “Education Is” networking event, organised with the intention of promoting debate and conversation between those invested in education.
The conversation around the working group has been dominated by the discussion of loans schemes similar to those used in Australia, he said, arguing that “they don’t improve access.”
He went on: “A loan system that is designed to increase funding to third-level education is not a good thing for students, and it’s not a good thing in terms of how we treat education generally. But it’s most definitely not good for students.”
“Just because you pay later as opposed to now doesn’t mean that we don’t already charge the second-highest fee in Europe already, and should reduce that. People were saying ‘oh we can’t introduce free education because it’s not an ideal world’ – every other country in Europe bar us is quite close to free education. So, literally everyone else can do it. You don’t need to live in an ideal world. You need to live in Germany, or Austria or Switzerland, or Finland or Norway. We can do it pretty much everywhere else except the UK.”
Asked if he was referring to the speaker from last night’s debate at council who said “In an ideal world, education would be free, but this is not an ideal world”, Alice MacPherson, he said “No, but it’s a common phrase I’ve seen used, and politicians quite often use it, and they say “if we could introduce free education, it’d be great, but in actual fact, we can and they do it in most places, and that’s not a specific reference to an individual or anything like that.”