The Irish Government seems certain to defy Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development advice to introduce tuition fees or it will fail to develop globally competitive universities and research.
An OECD review concludes that the investment will not be possible without some private contribution from students, either in the form of tuition fees or some alternative. The economic and fiscal realities facing Ireland mean that relying on state funding alone will be insufficient, says the review, which is due to be discussed at a meeting of the OECD Education Committee in Dublin on Thursday.
But, despite the recommendations, Irish Government sources have indicated that the return of tuition fees is off the political agenda for now. This follows an unsuccessful attempt last year by Noel Dempsey, the Education Minister, to reinstate them.
The OECD report calls for significant structural changes in:
* Strategic steering of the tertiary education system
* Governance and management of higher education institutions
* Strategic management of research and development, innovation and internationalisation
* Access and participation.
It points out that Ireland was one of the first European countries to grasp the economic importance of education.
The Irish tertiary education system has performed well: it has expanded its student numbers by about 2 per cent a year since the mid-1960s and has reached an age participation rate of 53 per cent. Its number of graduates in science and technology is above the European average.