Wednesday, February 10, 2016

What does Sinn Féin say about Third-level Education? #GE16 #326 @sinnfeinireland

The Sinn Féin Election Manifesto is 58 pages long, and I took a quick look this morning about what it has to say about third-level education. Like Fine Gael's Economic Plan (36 pages) there is actually very little mention of third-level education. Sinn Féin do however have some specific policies - they promise to abolish fees and introduce grants for postgraduate students. Good ideas I'm sure you'll agree. 

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Like the Fine Gael Plan, the word "university" is not mentioned, and the word "college" is used only once (in one of their case studies, p 12). I like their commitment to "academic freedom must be protected" and their stance that education is "a basic and fundamental human right". They also state that they will "invest additional funds to tackle staffing shortages at third level". Good!

Can the third-level sector rest easy reading the Sinn Féin manifesto? So far so good, though if they get into a government with other parties there is bound to be a lot of horse trading and who knows what educational policy will be. I would l certainly have liked to see more focus on research in the manifesto - indeed the word "research" is mentioned only once (in a reference to "fisheries and seafood" (p 55). I would like to see a better commitment to improving access to third-level, abolishing fees is not enough - this didn't work before when Labour did this in the 1990s.

By all accounts Sinn Féin are set for a good election with perhaps winning as many as 30 seats. If they do get into government there will of course be a lot of tough choices ahead for Sinn Féin, and their coalition partners, to make. My wish is for education at all levels to be a priority - more than any other sector it looks far beyond the present and into the future lives of our children.

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