Undergraduate fees: survey results so far

By Juliana Adelman

Well the numbers are in and Pue’s readers are in favor of a reintroduction of fees by a strong majority of 63%.  Undergraduates were a very small minority of our respondents, but perhaps unsurprisingly they were 75% against the reintroduction of fees.  Postgraduates were the largest group of respondents and they represent the overall trends of the survey relatively well with 65% in favor of fees, but heavily in favor of graduated fees (41% versus 24% for universal).  Postdoctoral fellows, however were 89% in favor of the reintroduction of student fees, with the vast majority in favor of fees graduated by income.  University lecturers were most evenly divided among the three options (universal fees, fees varied by income, no fees).  Although the majority (72%) were in favor of fees, this was split between those who want universal fees (29%) and those who want graduated fees (42%).  We only had one respondent who identified themselves as a parent of an undergraduate and they were understandably NOT in favor of fees!  I haven’t closed the poll, so please feel free to vote if you have not yet and at the end of next week I will put up the complete results.

3 Responses to “Undergraduate fees: survey results so far”

  1. Brian Hanley Says:

    Cormac Ó Grada wrote about 20 years ago that ‘Irish historians are a rather conservative bunch.’ Not a lot would appear to have changed. The re-introduction of fees would simply restrict access to higher education to a large number of students. It would not improve the chances of those who do not go now, as that would take a massive effort at primary and secondary level, and it would simply mean that the wealthy would go anyway. A broad layer would be excluded or their lives made very difficult. Universities would still chase after tax exiles who fancy having their name over a library door and college presidents would still be overpaid.
    More generally has anyone reflected on how academia tolerates what in other occupations is essentially casualisation? The employment of young/new academics on short-term contracts, usually on low rates of pay and with the constant promise of a potential contract held over them to enable departments to ask them to take up slack in admin or other areas?
    We might ponder also, how the competition among small numbers of post-grads and junior academics for a limited number of jobs has produced a culture where people are terrified of offending potential mentors/referees/reviewers or employers and where (off the record) people openly say things like ‘well if you do that, you’ll never get a job there’. Not a healthy situation.
    We should care about these things, if only because the wish of many a historian, to actually live in historic times, is being fulfilled for us.

  2. Student X Says:

    Some people might agree with you but they’ll never put their name on a public comment!

  3. puesoccurrences Says:

    @Brian. I agree that the poll seems to indicate that the further up you get in the professional pathway, the more conservative you become (eg postdocs tend to think more like university lecturers). Although lecturers were less in favour of fees than the postdocs. I’ll put up the final results in the next day or so. I’m not sure that I agree, however, that fees will make a huge difference to student demographics. Free fees has had a very limited impact on diversifying the student population and, by contrast, college education in the USA is incredibly expensive but still (because of state universities and access programmes) used by a broader spectrum of the population. That is not to deny that major portions of the population, notably Hispanics, are hugely under-represented. Reintroducing fees will probably have a negative impact on families and on students, but if you consider the costs of maintaining a student to live away from home over three years then the extra €1000 hardly seems to me to be the only problem. A system based on examination will systematically maintain the success of those who design the exam. Irish exams are probably more fair than the American SAT, but nonetheless middle class students will always have an advantage through (as you point out) primary and secondary education and, in some cases, grinds.

    On the other point, I do think we need a serious evaluation of how universities spend their money and contracting of academic staff has to be a major concern for all of us. Low pay and uncertainty are bad enough, but there is also no effort made to help people with professional development which might at least partially compensate for this problem. And yes, the world is so small that one occasionally feels compelled to tolerate poor treatment in the hope of some future gain. On the other hand, I am not so sure that this is very different to life in a major corporation. It is the fact that universities pretend to be meritocracies that is a bit galling in the face of how they really behave.

    I think people DO care about these things. The question is what exactly can we do?


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