Ned Costello of the IUA (Irish Universities' Association) has an article in today's Irish Times outlining the case for university fees to produce a 'top-up' income stream for the universities based on income-contingent repayable loans. At the same time another article argues the case for tax credits for those choosing particular subjects (mainly ICT related in which the numbers of students is catastrophically low for a supposed 'knowledge economy'). It seems that the 'Australian model' of personal debt/payment is the preferred route to challenging the 'avoidance' methods of the past, whereby those who were not on PAYE could simply declare their returns as below the threshold in the year in which their children applied to third level.
A still unresolved issue, however, is whether government will accept the 'top-up' aspect as opposed to using the fees to substitute for their core funding provision - in other words simply shifting the financial burden to (future) tax payers but not increasing the overall income to the universities themselves. Who knows? But the presidents of the universities meet the Minister for Education tomorrow.