Reacting to the announcement on education spending in Budget 2016 last week, the Irish Federation of University Teachers (IFUT) have condemned the government for “totally” failing “to address the funding and staffing crisis facing third level education” and “threatening the sector’s very viability.”
IFUT general secretary, Mike Jennings, said in a statement released by the federation that: “Despite providing some expansion in overall education spending, necessary funding to assist third-level colleges recover from years of cuts and staff reductions has not been forthcoming.”
Budget 2016 contained no change in direct investment in third-level institutions, although it did include the promise of a further €3 million to the Student Assistance Fund. Of the pre-budget submissions made by other political parties, while several noted the importance of committing increased funds to student support services, only that of the Social Democrats discussed the need for greater direct investment in third-level institutions.
He claimed that the Higher Education Authority’s (HEA) conclusion that 40% of third-level infrastructure is now sub-standard has been ignored by the government. “Colleges have fewer lecturers catering for ever more students, lecture halls are becoming more packed, access to libraries and student supports are becoming ever-more limited,” he said.
Jennings predicted that the result of public spending per student in higher education having fallen below that for second-level for the first time ever in this budget, will threaten “the very fabric of third-level education and our third-level institutions.”
Speaking to Trinity News last week, Union of Students in Ireland (USI) president, Kevin Donoghue, also criticised the budget and called for further investment in higher education. “I think there’s been a repeated failure to invest in third-level education over the last number of years and unless that’s addressed in quite a significant way in the near future, I think it will do us damage over a period of time,” he said, particularly in terms of the quality of degree that students are receiving and Ireland’s ability to attract foreign direct investment.