Private sector wins case for public fees

October 9, 1998

A private college in Dublin has won an important High Court case establishing its right to run publicly funded degree courses in computer science.

Last year Griffith College was invited to tender for emergency courses that were introduced to meet skill shortages in the computer industry. One of its directors was invited to join a committee that drew up specifications for the programme.

The college's course was passed by the steering committee overseeing the programme but its application to provide 100 degree places was turned down because of the still unresolved issue of fees for students in private colleges.

The government pays the fees for students in publicly funded universities and colleges but refuses to pay fees for private college students. The government says it would cost IRPounds 6 million (Pounds 5.2 million) a year to do so.

In his ruling Mr Justice Hugh Geoghegan said it was not legitimate for the minister to invite colleges such as Griffith to apply and then to turn around and say "you are not eligible" because of the free-fees issue.

He said his ruling was a "one-off" and did not apply to the general issue of funding courses in private colleges. This is the subject of separate legal action by a second private college. Despite his comments the outcome could have strengthened the general case, which will be held shortly.

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