Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Fine Gael's Election Manifesto on Third-Level Education is Excellent - But Can They Deliver? #GE16 #320

At a whopping 140 pages, Fine Gael's Election 2016 Manifesto (published today) seems to have a lot. Everything from Disability, to Housing, and to Banking. In fact there are 29 separate sections - somebody has been working very hard to put this together. With so many sections, there can be no more than a few pages for each section - so I headed for the four and a half pages devoted to Education.

Image source: Fine Gael.
Fine Gael have a four point plan to "to invest in a reformed and well-managed education system that makes sure that the economic recovery leaves no child behind". Sounds good. Point 4 is about Higher Education.

My first reaction is that I am impressed - there are several items that catch my eye, here's just a few:
  • “Earned Autonomy” for Universities - giving more independence to set there own resource requirements (good), but within "strict" guidelines (bad)
  • Online Higher Education - they are only promising (bad) to conduct an "extensive consultation exercise". But this is a step in the right direction (good)
  • Technological Universities - Fine Gael plan to "prioritise those institutions with clear ambitions and plans for the furthering of industry-relevant technological research and education". This sounds like a challenge to IoTs more than an election promise.
  • Springboard - this is currently a very successful programme and good value for tax payer's money. Fine Gael promise to review the programme with a view to introducing "new 2-year courses" for specific skills shortages (again - good)
I would not normally read election manifestos, nor recommend others to do so. I also have never voted for Fine Gael in my life (blue shirts and all of that!). The manifesto on third-level education reads like a document created with a real desire to make Ireland a top education environment for third-level. If only I believed that Fine Gael could deliver on this? Will there be any money left over after they "look after" the likes of Michael Lowry and other Independents and small parties that they will have to rely on to secure a majority? What proposed policies will have to be sacrificed to negotiated settlements with others? 

Fine Gael - I like what you are saying, but I don't believe you can do this. 

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