I agree with the Deputy on a number of different levels but I am not satisfied yet that we have got the right economies within the higher level education system. I will give him one example. In the area of the provision of initial teacher education for teachers at primary and secondary level, the state of Singapore has one institution that provides the lot for primary and secondary. We have 22, and there are 43 courses between the five teacher training colleges on the one hand and various colleges that provide different forms of educational qualifications for secondary school teachers. This is a small country. We have invested millions of euro in the roads system and the transportation system, whether it is train or bus. The landscape in the 1970s when the regional technical colleges, RTCs, as they were, were established has shrunk enormously in that time. I want to make sure that as taxpayers we are getting very good value for money from within the existing system. I am not satisfied that we are getting that, but the full report from the HEA will help us to formulate policy.
I remind the Deputy that students at undergraduate level now pay a student contribution. It is not called a fee but it is de facto a fee. This year it will go up by €250 from €2,000 and in the next four years, including this year, it will go from €2,000 to €3,000. That is the contribution, and that is a higher de facto fee than many fee charging colleges. In the Netherlands, for example, there is a €1,700 fee per annum. We have crossed that particular Rubicon. Of the undergraduate students, 42% of them are on a grant of one kind or another that ensures they have the fee paid and also get a maintenance grant.
Regarding the Deputy's observation, the socio-economic spread of participation in higher level education has been transformed, and part of that transformation was due to better outcomes at second level, aspirations among young people to go to college, and the removal of the barrier that was the original fees.