Chancellor of DCU wants system of means-testing for fees Believes a sense of fairness is lacking in education system

By Catríona Hughes
At Leinster House

Chancellor of DCU, Senator Martin McAleese, believes a means-testing system for third level fees could help prevent feelings of resentment in society.

Speaking to The College View after his first term at DCU he said, “Economically, the country is in a bad way at the moment and we have to deal with the problems we are faced with. We have some very tough times ahead of us and there is no getting away from that.”

But the senator feels that the proposed budget changes risk evoking a sense of unfairness in relation to the increase in fees for some students, “I accept that every sector has to fight very hard to get the best deal possible from the exchequer but I think that there has to be a sense of fairness, equity and openness so that it is clear what each sector is receiving.”

In terms of education, Senator McAleese said that we have to “fight for the best possible deal”, while accepting that funds are limited.

“Perhaps this can be solved by introducing a system of means-testing” said McAleese. “There are people in our society who could pay a little bit more and people who should pay a little less.

“Means-testing is something that we could look at in that context.  Governments seem to shy away from it, because their view is that it costs too much to implement. However, it could bring about a degree of fairness in education and other sectors.

“People know that there is an economic burden to be carried, but if we have a sense that each person is carrying a fair share of that burden, then we will get through. It could be the beginning of creating a national collective effort where we would be pulling  together in the national interest.”

“We have to find a way to avoid resentment, which is not a healthy thing for society as a whole.”

McAleese commented on the currently high emigration rates for graduates in Ireland, explaining that although undoubtedly difficult, emigration need not be as daunting as it once was.

“We live in a globalised economy and sometimes it is not that important where we are based.  The nature of emigration is also totally different today with improvements in modern communications and greater ease of travel.”

He highlighted that having a degree in a particular area does not mean that you have to spend the rest of your live chasing that specific area. Dr McAleese himself first studied physics at Queens University in Belfast before going on to study accountancy and subsequently dentistry, “I think change is a fantastic thing. We should look to ourselves to uncover the other skills and abilities we possess, to identify a greater spectrum of opportunity.”

“Everybody would love to win the lotto, but for me, education and the opportunity for education is as good as the winning lottery ticket for our young people. That’s why DCU has to be commended for its Access programme,” Dr McAleese told The College View.

“Our future is in how we address the issues surrounding education and we must be fair in the distribution of capital that is available to do so. Mean-testing may be one way of achieving this.”

McAleese also said: “We have to have a first class education system in this country and we have to have first-class graduates, we need as many post-graduates and post-doctoral students as possible.”

McAleese was appointed as Chancellor of DCU in August 2011. During this time he and his wife Prof Mary McAleese were coming to the end of their 14 years in Áras an Uachtaráin.

“The President of DCU, Prof Brian MacCraith, is visionary and has great plans for the university. I think our role fundamentally is to encourage and support him in everything that he does.”

Reflecting on his first term as Chancellor, Senator McAleese said that he thinks that the university environment is a great place to work, “It’s great to be associated with a university campus, it keeps you rooted and it keeps you young in your outlook and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.”

Dr Martin McAleese said that he looks forward to contributing in any way that he can to the development of DCU.

Dr McAleese said his wife Mary McAleese travelled to Rome on February 1st, where she will study for five months.

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