77% of adults ‘believe in free college education’

A nationwide poll commissioned by UCD Students’ Union and conducted by Red C has revealed that 77 per cent of adults believe the government should continue to cover fees for third-level education.Students’ Union President Gary Redmond has expressed his satisfaction at the survey’s findings, describing the result as “a clear indication that the people of Ireland want third-level education to remain free.” He also said that the results “fly in the face of Education Minister Batt O’Keeffe’s previous proposals to re-introduce tuition fees, and his repeated remarks that the issue will revisited at the end of his Government’s term.”When asked how the results of the poll might be used, Redmond said that the SU planned to “use the results of surveys to influence how we work with ongoing campaigns and future campaigns, and also how we may direct our lobbying.”1,000 adults – including samples from a diverse range of age groups and from various geographical bases around the country – were questioned as part of the survey, which was conducted by telephone. The strongest support for continued state funding of third-level fees came from the 18-24 year-old age group.However, before the results were published, Redmond was reticent to comment on whether or not the SU were carrying out surveys relating to public opinion on third-level education. When previously questioned, Redmond said that “there’ll be a number of issues and I’m not going to say whether fees is or isn’t something we’ve been polling on, but certainly we’ve done polling on national issues in the past.”However, Redmond was keen to clarify that a substantial effort is made to “…ensure that the questions were unbiased and were balanced. [We don’t] weight the questions in favour or against an answer that we might like.”The results of the survey come after the heads of the State’s main universities, including UCD President Hugh Brady, acknowledged at a Joint Oireachtas Committee meeting last month that the student registration charge is a veiled form of third-level fees. Fine Gael Education Spokesman, Brian Hayes TD, has accused Minister O’Keeffe for introducing fees in the form of the annual increase to the student services levy, which last year stood at €1,500.