The two major universities chiefs / Provosts in Dublin, at UCD and Trinity, have come out in the past fortnight wanting pressure on the Government to get more funding for Third Level education so that Ireland cam compete more effectively with other countries.
Institutes of Technology like Waterford also require more funding and will need even more if raised to university status, additional to what they currently receive.
If Waterford gets the upgrade that is being sought one of the critical areas is funding.
Dr. Edward Walsh, a former director and founder of the National Institute of Higher Education in Limerick, has also supported the third level sector in seeking more funding.
The eminent doctor also supports the South East case for an upgrade for Waterford that is being delayed in Government as copy cat demands are also
being pursued by other Institutes like Cork, where there is already a university.
The abolition of fees at third level is at the root of the crisis as this starves colleges of funding.
To bring back fees would be political suicide and would be like bringing back rates on private houses or water rates.
In Limerick, Dr. Walsh sought funds overseas industry and philanthropists to develop the university and he was very successful. Trinity and UCD have followed the same path getting funding from successful Irish business persons, but more is needed.
Dr. Walsh gave the example where Australians get free education at third level but pay back the fees when they go into employment. An extra tax levy is placed on students to repay over a period as a payback for their education and this could additionally fund college and third level development.
It is an interesting idea but may not be popular, some Continental countries like Germany have similar models, where there is a payback. It has been suggested before that medical students could pay such a levy, due to the high cost of medical education and the huge sums that are later earned by medical practitioners.
The Minister for Education Mary Hanafin could consider a White Paper on this funding issue, but not use it as a way of delaying a decision on Waterford’s upgrade, which experts like Dr. Walsh whole heartedly endorse as they see the need for a South East university to address the regional imbalance.