With your permission, a Cheann Comhairle, I propose to take Questions Nos. 39 to 42 together.
I would direct the attention of Deputies to a general statement which I have made in relation to university fees and which with your permission, a Cheann Comhairle, I propose to have circulated with the Official Report.
"In connection with university fees the Minister for Education feels that he must refer to the mounting costs of higher education in general and university education in particular which are placing an ever-increasing burden on the taxpayer. While by far the major portion of these costs must continue to be borne by the taxpayer, the Minister considers that the students, who are the persons immediately benefiting from university education, should be called upon to bear a portion of the increases in cost. At the present time the taxpayer is contributing more than £400 per annum towards the education of every university student. This is apart altogether from the amounts being paid to holders of grants under the higher education grants scheme. The position is, therefore, that, even with the increase in fees now proposed, the proportion the students would be called upon to pay would be less than one-fifth of the total cost.
While accordingly the Minister considers that the increase in fees now proposed should operate, he is prepared to meet the case of grant holders by making funds available so that an increase may be made in the value of the grants, which would offset the increase in fees. Furthermore, in order to obviate any portion of last year's increase in fees other than £10 being passed on to students in the higher fee faculties, the Minister will be prepared to make sums available by way of supplementary grants to the university colleges which will offset any loss incurred by them through not levying the full amount of last year's increase in the case of such students."