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Universities: Where the Working Class Need Not Apply


Mary Coughlan and Colin HuntThe publication of the Hunt Report, outlining a 20-year plan for the third level education sector in the Twenty-Six Counties was published this week.

The report represents yet another example of how capitalism reacts when in crisis. Just as in the Great Depression of the 1930s, capitalism in crisis reacts by lashing out against the working class. Whether it is with cuts to the wages of teachers, nurses and other public sector workers, or Garda assaults on protestors, Irish capitalism is on the offensive.

Capitalism regrets none of its excesses and is determined to ensure that workers should pay for a crisis not of their making. The palatial holiday homes, the helicopters and all the investments in equine stock, will have to be paid for by ordinary taxpayers.

As well as paying for the luxurious lifestyles of the wealthy, working people will soon find that third level education is priced beyond their means. Capitalists are determined that access to wealth will allow the current social order to be reproduced by preventing the working class from access to higher education. This new offensive was launched with the Hunt Report on the future of third level education.

Before further analysis of the Hunt Report, it would be useful to take a look at Dr Colin Hunt, the man after whom the report is named.

Hunt works for an Australian company, which has operations in Ireland, called Macquarie Capital Advisers. Here, he spends his time as an economist, providing advice on mergers, acquisitions and investments for those companies operating in, among other areas, property, finance and infrastructure. Clearly, Hunt is able to earn millions from these companies that have collapsed the Irish economy because he has been seen as a safe pair of hands at protecting their interests.

His posting before starting work for Macquarie was to work as Brian Cowen’s special advisor in the Twenty-Six County Department of Finance. Judging by how well the economy is doing, you would have to say that he obviously wasn’t top of the class when economic acumen was being handed out.

Given the desperate efforts of Cowen and company to protect Ireland’s wealthy, it is easy to see how ‘the Colster’, as he is known to his fellow stockbroking parasites, can drum up plenty of business for Macquarie.

Before this, Hunt worked for the Bank of Ireland and Goodbody Stockbrokers, a company owned by Allied Irish Bank. Given his background, Hunt definitely won’t be calling for the banking elite to pay for a crisis of their making. Instead, in the less than self-deprecatingly titled Hunt Report, he gives ideological cover to a renewed attack on the working class.

The report declares that the system of fees, which has been misnamed the Student Registration Charge, is about to be abolished. Graduates are now to be saddled with a Student Loan system, at the end of which they will face an average bill of €25,000 [£21,000]. So, from a fee of €1,500 [£1,300] in 2010, increased to €2,000 [£1,700] in last December’s budget, the Dublin government is set to increase fees by an extraordinary 400 per cent.

Education for many will now be unaffordable. Fine Gael, of course, back this discriminatory strategy and, from the soundings been made by Labour Party spokespeople, they will implement the system too. They, alongside the government parties, argue that this system is preferable to a situation where you have to pay up front.

Any child in primary education knows that this is nonsense and that having to pay €6,000 [£5,000] would be better than paying €25,000 and it wouldn’t take Project Maths to teach them that. All this is being done, according to the Dublin government, to cover a shortfall in funding for third level education of €500 million [£420 million] annually.

Here are two suggestions which could easily generate the required cash.

First, stop paying out €100 million [£84 million] annually to fund private secondary schools, thereby subsidising educational apartheid.

Secondly, increase the corporation tax level on all those companies who Hunt has consultancy contracts with. Of course, neither of these options is considered because they operate against the class interest of Hunt’s employers.

The scheme will be operated by the National Treasury Management Agency alongside the European Investment Bank, with one of the British companies who operate similar schemes there, expected to get the contract for its day-to-day management. Looking at this list of parasites and crooks you would be right in assuming that a name is missing.

That name is the International Monetary Fund, which does have a role to play. The IMF vultures insisted on this system of fees for third level education. Just read the IMF’s ‘Country’ report on the Twenty-Six County state, which was published last December, just two days after the lackeys in Leinster House voted to accept the conditions imposed by the state’s new colonial masters.

Contained within the IMF report, but not published in the so-called Memorandum of Understanding between the Dublin government and the body are proposals for “cost recovery on provision of tertiary education, while protecting lower-income students through means-tested loan scheme (efficiency/fairness)”. In the bizarre world of the IMF vampires, sucking the life out of third level students is considered to be a measure that promotes fairness. Indeed, using terms such as ‘efficiency’ and ‘fairness’ interchangeably indicates that they consider the market as somehow an appropriate mechanism in which to promote same.

The Twenty-Six County state is now effectively an IMF protectorate and is edging closer to being a full blown colony of international capital. The IMF clearly believes that it has yet another country wrapped up for sale on the market.

Like the British government, they think they have foreseen everything and provided against everything. No doubt, the student activists in the FEE campaign, who have displayed a level of militancy that will be required over the coming months and years and who have given many of us much hope for the future, will give them their answer.

Education is a right not a privilege. We will not be pacified.


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