Cash-back bond plan after third shutdown

May 23, 1997

A third private college in three years has closed in Dublin, putting pressure on the remaining colleges to introduce a bonding arrangement to ensure students get their fees back if more close.

The private sector has grown steadily in recent years, mainly in Dublin and other large cities, fuelled by the rising demand for further and higher education places.

Advanced Technology College in Dublin had more than 500 students who had paid fees ranging from IRPounds 1,200 to Pounds 5,500 (Pounds 1,114-5,100) a year for part-time and full-time courses in film, photography, sound engineering, graphics, media studies, and computer programming. The High Court appointed an examiner who was unable to secure backers to keep the college going. Students are unlikely to get their money back.

The largest private college already has such a bond arrangement and seven others are in discussions with the education ministry about following suit.

* The much-amended Universities' Bill has now passed through both houses of the Oireachtas (parliament). Its passage proved very difficult for the government, which became embroiled in rows over alleged attempts to interfere with traditional university autonomy.

The bill gives university status to four colleges of the National University of Ireland - university colleges Cork, Galway, and Dublin and St Patrick's College, Maynooth. It also alters the structure of the governing bodies of the universities and introduces measures aimed at greater accountability.

The bill proved controversial to the very end, when an intervention by the provost of Trinity College Dublin, Thomas Mitchell, led to an eleventh-hour amendment. The Seanad (the upper house) was adjourned because of his reported objections to proposed changes in the university's academic council. On its resumption education minister Niamh Bhreathnach moved an amendment allowing the university to retain its academic council structure.

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