|Image source: Labour.ie.|
At 96 pages, Labour's Election Manifesto is the longest one I have come across so far - but I am only interested in what they have to say about third-level education. I searched their web site in vain to find the manifesto, and a tweet to @labour asking where it is got no response. Nothing for it but to Google "Labour Election Manifesto" - hence my 96 page result.
As in some of the other manifestos, the word "university" is not mentioned once. The word "college" is mentioned seven times - mostly in relation to Further Education Colleges and Institutes of Technology.
The section in the manifesto dealing with third-level starts out with "Labour abolished third-level fees in 1995, and we are opposed to their re-introduction". They did indeed abolish fees, but over the last five years in government they have presided over an increase in the student contribution to €2,500/year. Only in the Labour party could they see this as free fees. The first policy on the manifesto is that Labour expect "expect radical reform in third level institutions" in particular "the reform of academic contracts". Now they have my attention - so I decided to read on, but.... nothing on what they plan to do about contracts. Labour are committed to improving standards in third-level, but there's nothing new in this - so are all the other parties. They have an interesting idea to create an "Education Ireland" brand to make us a "Centre for International Excellence". I also like their idea for international students: "Postgraduate students should be allowed work in Ireland for up to a year after they complete their studies. High-value research students should be allowed bring their families to Ireland if they are staying for more than two years" - at least this is progressive thinking. But how are they suggesting they will do this? The answer is - Labour will "prioritise the development of a one-stop shop website which can enable international students to learn about Ireland, pick a course and apply for their visa". A website - that will do it!
The other three party (FG/FF/SF) manifestos/election plans that I have reviewed are long on strategy, but short on ideas. Labour at least tries to be innovative, even in the face of possible disaster at next week's election. There seems at the moment that there's a very small chance that they'll get to implement any policy - so like the others, they can say and promise what they like.