Cut from The Chase

postgrad degrees

For Adam Lacey, a 21-year-old music and ancient classics student at NUI Maynooth, the government’s decision to slash grants for postgraduate students came as a shock.

For so many college students and graduates, deciding what to study in the next few years is tough. A task that is made even more harrowing by grim economic statistics, a rise in the cost of education, and the government’s cut to grants for postgraduate courses. Despite a provision to offer limited grants to students from disadvantaged backgrounds, the government has yet to stipulate how this will work.

“For most people a masters or a PhD is the next step but not everyone can afford that right now,” says Adam. “I’m an undergrad at the minute, I’m getting a grant, and I can’t apply for anything I want to do, simply because I can’t afford to. I have to take a year or more out to earn enough money for it,” he says.

According to the Central Statistics Office some 82,000 young people aged between 15 and 24 were out of work by April 2011, setting an unemployment rate of 39 per cent for this age group. 70,000 of those seeking jobs had finished their education but chances of finding employment differ hugely depending on the qualifications achieved. The unemployment rate for those with third level education lies at around 18 per cent.

Dave Hill, a film and media undergraduate at Dublin Business School, is certain that he would have been another statistic if it hadn’t been for his parents’ personal savings and his own job.

“Without that job, I wouldn’t be in college,” says Dave. “The decision on grants is a bad move. There are students with degrees leaving the country for work and now you will probably have students leaving to study abroad,” he concludes.

Budget cuts

In the 2013 budget the government decided on a dual strategy; hike tuition fees for undergraduate students, and continue to hold back grants for postgraduate courses.

“The scrapping of the postgraduate maintenance grant was one of the most regressive steps taken by any government in the history of this State towards an accessible education system,” says John Logue President of the Union Students of Ireland (USI). Mr. Logue said that documentation from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform indicated cutting postgraduate grants would put further education out of the reach of many families.

The Minster for Education Ruari Quinn took the brunt of criticism from Mr. Logue and other education advocacy groups in recent weeks due to his decision to hike fees for third level education. In the next few years undergraduates will see their tuition fees climb by €250/year until 2014.

Tom Boland, the CEO of the Higher Education Authority, suggested the scrapping of postgraduate grants was “counter productive to national objectives.”

By: Liam Cahill