Decrease in number of ‘disadvantaged’ students studying a postgraduate degree

By Aisling Short

Scrapping maintenance grants for new postgraduate students will lower registration numbers and discourage those termed ‘the disadvantaged’ from applying for postgraduate degrees, according to Dr. Lisa Looney, the newly appointed Dean of Graduate Studies at DCU.

“Everybody understands that things are difficult, resources are low, but to bring this measure in on its own against postgraduate study is not comprehensive thinking,” she said.

Budget 2012 saw the abolition of maintenance grants for new postgrad student in 2012, while existing maintenance grants will be subject to a 3 per cent cut.

Dr. Looney said that “DCU has worked hard on the Access programme”, making postgraduate study available to everybody, irrelevant of their background.

She said it was unfair to widely encourage the pursuit of a university education, only to cut short the progress of those with financial limitations.

‘‘Some students simply won’t have the option of continuing their education. Some (in government) might see or refer to fourth level education as a luxury”, she told the College View in a recent interview.

In a press release following the Budget announcements, the Irish Universities Association (IUA), which represents Ireland’s seven universities, reacted with dismay.

“These cutbacks need to be seen in the context of a cycle of continuing disinvestment in higher education,” said chief executive, Ned Costello. “Even taking account of increased student charges, from 2008 to 2012, the unit of investment in each student will have been cut from €9,000 to €7,300.

“While the latest cutbacks cause serious difficulties, the indication that cuts will continue into future years is of even greater concern. With the underfunding of education and research, we are being driven into a dangerous vortex which will drag down growth and employment.”

The decision of the government to abrogate their investment in fourth level education will damage Ireland’s prospects of building a knowledge based economy.

Dr. Looney accused the government of “rowing backwards” and said that, “we are in choppy waters at the moment, but it is inevitable that there will be a comprehensive model for educational funding.’’

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