The Irish Federation of University Teachers (IFUT) has called on the Fine Gael and Labour to announce proposals to address the mounting crisis in third-level education, ahead of the announcement of this year’s general election.
In a press release IFUT General Secretary, Mike Jennings, said that the two parties in government “must explain why investment in third-level education continues to be cut, despite the turn around in the economy and the surge in student numbers”.
The statement comes following new data which shows applications for third-level places have reached an all-time high, and a warning from IBEC last week that higher education is ‘in the midst of a funding crisis’.
“The Central Applications Office has confirmed that almost 70,000 students, the highest ever number, have applied to attend third-level next year. Can the government reassure these young people that their very future is not being jeopardised as a result of decisions on their watch?
“Funding per student at third-level has fallen below that of second level for the first time ever in recent years. Any incoming government must reverse policies that saw funding to universities slashed by 26% and to other colleges by 24% between 2007 and 2014.
“Staff numbers declined by 4,500 from 2008 to 2013, while student number rose by 16%.
“There is now clearly a widespread consensus across different sectors of society and the economy that the crisis in Irish third level-education can no longer be ignored,” Mike Jennings said.
Meanwhile, the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) have released a statement calling on the government to avoid holding an election on a Thursday, claiming that doing so would deliberately exclude students from the process.
“We have registered tens of thousands of young people to vote in the last year and this kind of behaviour is exactly the reason young people are so disenfranchised with politics”, said USI president Kevin Donoghue.
The statement comes in light of reports that Fine Gael are considering holding the election on a Thursday, partially to allow those travelling to a Six Nations match in London on Saturday 27th February to vote.
“The idea that political leaders would seek to exclude thousands of enthusiastic students from voting, in order to accommodate fans travelling to London, who would be taking an active decision not to vote, is extremely disappointing to our membership”, remarked Donoghue.
Last week the USI held a hustings in Trinity which featured panellists from all the major parties contesting this years election.