Over 20 students’ union presidents from around the country have signed a letter, published today by the Irish Times, decrying a student loan scheme in Ireland as “unacceptable”.
The letter stated: “The proposal of any kind of student loan scheme in Ireland is wholly unacceptable and is widely understood as an inequitable way to fund education, as well as having been consistently shown to be a failure when implemented in the UK and Australia and contributing to significant deficits in the public purse.”
The future of higher education funding has been at the forefront of students’ minds since the publication of the Cassells Report in 2016, which detailed three options for how higher education could be funded in Ireland. These included student loans, making higher education free at the point of access with state funding increasing from 64% to 80%, or an entirely state-funded system in which students would receive free education.
The government has not yet made a decision on how higher education is to be funded, with no development expected for at least another year as proposals are analysed by the European Commission.
Student leaders condemned the delay in finding a “sustainable and fair funding model for higher education” in today’s letter.
“The Cassells report, published in March 2016, was deliberately ignored and neglected, and instead has been kicked to Europe”, the letter outlined.
The letter was signed by Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) President Shane De Rís alongside Union of Students’ in Ireland (USI) President Síona Cahill and National Union of Students Northern Ireland (NUS-USI) President Olivia Potter-Hughes.
Student leaders are calling for a move away from the current “free fees” scheme, which sees students paying fees of €3,000 per year, the second-highest fees in Europe.
“The sector has faced a managed decline in state investment over time while the number of students in the system increased due to a demographic bulge”, the letter states.
“Our lecturers and institutional staff have done a noteworthy job of maintaining standards while our staff to student ratio has been driven up, resources have dipped, and they are living on increasingly precarious contracts of employment – the system itself is on a cliff.”
USI, which had organised pre-budget marches against student fees for the last number of years, instead turned its attention to the housing crisis and student accommodation last October to join the Raise the Roof rally, which saw 3,000 students march for an end to the housing crisis.
Students are set to join a protest against fees on March 21 which is to call on the government to “#FundTheFuture”.