Government votes down PBP proposal to scrap third level fees

All opposition TDs bar 8 Regional Group independents voted in favour of the motion

Tonight, the government voted against the People Before Profit (PBP) Young People and Access to Further and Higher Education motion in the Dáil.

All opposition TDs bar 8 members of the Regional Group of independents voted in favour of the bill.

PBP have said they are “extremely disappointed” that the bill has failed to pass. In a tweet, the party stated that they “want to #abolishfees and reform the system, so that everyone has the same chance” and “tonight, the [government] showed us how little they really care. #EducationForAll”. 

The proposed motion sought to scrap all fees for Further and Higher Education with the aim of increasing accessibility.

The motion was proposed by PBP leader Richard Boyd-Barrett. In the debate, Deputy Boyd-Barrett said that “access to the highest levels of education should be a right for all and that access to third-level should be seen in the same way as access to second-level was in the late 1960’s, when second-level was expanded for all”. 

During the debate, Minister for Further and Higher Education, Innovation and Research Simon Harris said that he does “share the ambition in terms of removing barriers to access to further and higher education”, despite his and his party’s opposition to the motion.

“Deputy Boyd-Barrett said he wants to see a radical overhaul in this area; so do I. I genuinely want to see a radical overhaul of how people get from second level to third level” he continued. 

Harris also said the “concept that access to at least an undergraduate education would be free as part of a natural extension of the education system” has “serious merit”. 

He highlighted reforms that he hopes to implement through the Department of Higher Education saying “we should be ambitious and we should use this new Department to drive an ambitious programme of reform” and that these reforms would include “reforming the CAO, creating an integrated tertiary education system, overhauling the SUSI grant system, making big and brave decisions on a sustainable funding model and bringing forward new governance legislation, an adult literacy, numeracy and digital skills plan, and a new national access plan”.

Harris voted against the motion but noted that “the debate today, importantly, puts a focus on a number of those important issues [He] looks forward to continuing to work with colleagues on them”.

TD’s were voting on an amended version of this bill this evening, with the debate having taken place on March 11. 

Yesterday, the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) held a virtual protest in favour of the #EducationForAll campaign where they called on students to lobby their local TDs to support the campaign. 

Kate Henshaw

Kate Henshaw is current Editor-in-Chief of Trinity News, and a graduate of Sociology and Social Policy. She previously served as Deputy Editor, News Editor and Assistant News Editor.