The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) has made the official announcement for its annual national demonstration, which calls for the adoption of a publicly-funded higher education system. The demonstration will be held on October 4 in Dublin.
While last year’s march, entitled the March for Education, took place after the budget, this year USI will take to the streets before Budget 2018. This is supposedly to ensure the Union’s proposals are heard before the budget is released.
USI is demanding the Irish government invest €1.26bn in higher education over the next decade and are also asking for greater grant investment in Budget 2018, which is due to be announced on October 10.
According to the USI, the demonstration is expected to draw over 5,000 students, which was the same number estimated in advance of last year’s march. Last year, however, almost double this figure attended the demonstration.
The demonstration is expected to put pressure on the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Education and Skills to make a long-term decision to invest in a publicly-funded third level education model, as outlined in the the Cassells report.
In a press statement, USI President Michael Kerrigan said: “Education is in the red. Don’t be fooled by the propaganda of a student loan. An income-contingent student loan outlined in the Cassels report is a drastic increase in fees from €3,000 to €5,000 a year in disguise. The moment we accept higher fees and a loan scheme, we are saddling people with €20,000 of mortgage-modeled debt and forcing them to emigrate.
“The message would be loud and clear to future students: take your €20,000 debt, your degree, and get out”, he added.
Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) and other student unions with USI membership will be attending the march. The march will also be supported by members of the various trades unions, such as SIPTU, IFUT and IMPACT, as well as the Irish Second-Level Students’ Union (ISSU), and the National Youth Council of Ireland.
The demonstration follows the defeat of a Seanad motion calling for the government to oppose a loan scheme to fund higher education, which was opposed by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael in July. The motion, proposed by Labour, also asked that the government end existing university fees and to implement a “truly publicly funded higher education system in Ireland”.
Instead, the Seanad voted to support a Fianna Fail and Fine Gael amendment to the motion which called for consensus on how higher education should be funding, with no mention of a loan scheme or free education appearing in the amendment.