A student walkout will take place on college campuses across Ireland this Thursday to protest the costs of higher education and housing.
The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) have called on students to walk out of classes at 11.11am to demonstrate their dissatisfaction with the rising cost of rents, funding gaps in higher education, and payment of postgraduate workers.
USI’s demands include protection for renters, including immediate eviction ban, and the introduction of housing as a constitutional right, the introduction of rent caps, and public subsidisation of affordable purpose-built student accommodation.
Their demands address the cost of college, including the abolition of the student contribution fee, and protesting the funding gap of €285 million in the higher education sector.
In May, government identified a funding gap of €307 million in higher education. Budget 2023 allocated €40 million additional funding for the sector, just 13% of the identified gap, a measure which the Irish Universities Association called “disappointing”.
USI have said that “this underfunding contributes to lower staff pay, worse working [conditions] and Ireland’s staff student ratio of 23:1”, as compared to the European average of 15:1.
Lastly, USI is calling on government to increase the minimum wage to match the current living wage. This demand includes an increase of PhD stipends to €28,000 a year, in line with the demands of postgraduate workers.
The minimum wage was increased to €11.30 per hour in Budget 2023, a rate €1.80 lower than the projected living wage of €13.10 for 2023.
Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) has pledged its support to the walkout, saying it “will be asking all schools to cooperate.”
In August, a TCDSU statement to Trinity News called on College to immediately reduce rent in Trinity-owned accommodation, and to stop exploiting the crisis as a revenue source.
TCDSU also asked that College “implements a clear roadmap for supporting homeless students so that they can continue their studies,” and for it to be “transparent in their on-campus room allocations, so students have time to make informed choices and seek out alternative accommodation”.
Access to hybrid learning models was also a key demand, noting that “this is important for students with disabilities, students with caring obligations, students without flexible working hours, as well as students who are commuting long-distances or facing homelessness”.
“Every student needs equal access to adequate learning materials and should not be excluded from education by the housing crisis,” it added.
Lastly, TCDSU demanded that College “increases funding for the TCDSU Accommodation Advisory Service so that we can meet the needs of our students”.
The statement noted that “as more and more students arrive at College with nowhere to stay”, the unions’ current policy of offering support on a case-by-case basis “will become unsustainable”, calling on College to provide more long-term solutions.
The statement went on to criticise government housing policy: “This crisis is not new, it is a symptom of decades of government policy that has prioritised investment returns over affordability and the human right to safe and secure housing.”
It outlined five demands for government, including the enforcement of rent pressure zones, the introduction of stricter legal protections for “digs” accommodation, and an immediate and drastic increase in “publicly owned and funded accommodation for students and the general public”.
TCDSU also called on government to make the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) available to students, and to commit to a clear timeline on the referendum for a right to housing.
TCDSU has been continually vocal in its criticism of the accommodation crisis which is affecting students. Last September, the students’ union attended a housing protest outside the Dáil, saying at the time that “it is brutally clear that the Government needs to step up now”.