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To fee or not to fee, that is the question.
With the possible re-introduction of third level fees on the horizon, Deirdre Dunne examines how Ireland’s approach compares to that of other countries.
Minister Ruairi Quinn has not ruled out the possibility of reintroducing third level fees in the near future. This has lead to widespread restlessness among current and impending students. What way does our third level education system operate presently and why does it need to be altered at all?
Universities in Ireland are state-funded, but otherwise are generally independent. Most undergraduate students attending publicly funded third level courses in Ireland therefore, do not have to pay tuition fees. Under the terms of the Free Fees Initiative, the Department of Education and Skills pay the fees to the colleges. Professor Ger Casey of UCD argues that our third level education system should not be referred to as “free” however given that undergraduates do hand over a sum of money to register for their third level courses every year. Who is this money paid to, if it is not paid to the government and what is it used for?
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Think a cruise holiday is just for the newly weds and nearly deads? Think again! My boyfriend and I flew in to Barcelona to pick up Royal Caribbean’s Serenade of the Seas ship. The vast size of the ship shocked me as we approached. From the minute we stepped on to the platform to board to the minute we stepped off again, the service we received was exceptional. Staff couldn’t have been any more helpful if they tried. If you looked even minutely unhappy, it seemed as though a member of staff would levitate from the walls to see if they could do anything to help. Our cabin, although small was cleaned every time our feet left the room. We would return to discover that our attendant had made the bed, skilfully constructed an animal out of our towels and even folded my bras that may have been accidentally strewn across the floor. The food on board was all included in the price. Don’t be mistaken however that this would mean getting served up slop. The food was simply to die for. In the formal restaurant Reflections, you can enjoy a Michelin standard four course meal every evening. Some nights the Captain dines there too and you’re encouraged to dress up smart which made me feel very posh, like Rose at the beginning of Titanic. Every night, the menu in the restaurant changed and boasted a different theme. We were blown away by the tantalising flavours and elegant presentation of the dishes. We tried everything from lobster to octopus to rabbit. One night I ordered the most beautiful lamb which slid effortlessly off the bone. The waiter informed us that the lamb had been marinated for 12 hours before being slow cooked in a tagine for 6 hours. They take their cooking seriously!
You can enjoy fine food like this all day every day on the ship. The Windjammer café is a self-service restaurant which serves food from all around the world all day long. I’m ashamed to say that some nights immediately after devouring four courses in the formal restaurant I would head there for an extra helping of dessert!
You can never be bored on board. The list of things to do is endless. You can spend a few dollars in the casino or shops, relish in a bit of rock climbing, play a round of mini golf overlooking the sea, watch a movie in the cinema, pump some iron in the gym as you watch the waves lapping before you, catch a broad way style show in the theatre, party in the many bars or go for a late night swim in the pool. My favourite hobby was having a glass of wine out on deck whilst watching the sun strike the sky red before going down for the night.
The ship docked at 7 different ports. We got off at every one but you don’t have to. You can stay on board and eat ice cream all day if you want! We visited Monaco, Rome, Pisa, the Amalfi Coast, Dubrovnik, Venice and Ravenna. Getting to see so many beautiful places without having to re pack your suitcase was amazing. The highlight of the trip was taking a boat ride along the Amalfi coast to the colourful village of Positano which hangs delicately on to the cheek of the Italian cliffs as though someone built it in a dream. It was the best holiday of my life!