The Union of Students’ in Ireland (USI) are banding together with staff unions and third level institutions in a move the first of its kind to demand the government take action to address the funding issues in higher education.
Representatives from each group have joined forces to call on the government to address the deficit in third level funding. In a group statement released today, the unions and institutions remarked that higher education in Ireland is “chronically under-funded” and call on the government direct attention to the funding crisis in Budget 2019, or else risk “an irreversible slide in the quality of our third level system”.
USI President Síona Cahill outlined that despite a 2% rise in third-level students year-on-year, government investment in higher education has declined. “What was a response to a recession is not at all acceptable as a way forward for a higher education system which we need to support student success, promote access, and produce top quality graduates,” said Cahill.
“The system is underfunded and students face the burden – at €3,000 per annum, students are already paying the second highest fees in Europe. It’s clear the government must act, and invest meaningfully in the present and the future of this country before it’s too late,” Cahill continued.
The campaign, aimed at improving investment in higher education, voiced its concern for the future of today’s 7 and 8 year-old primary students, who they say are at risk of facing insufficient college places available to them in 2030, when the demographic bulge is expected to peak with an additional 40,000 students seeking to access third level education.
Jim Miley, Director General of Irish Universities Association (IUA), remarked that the government’s aim of having the best education system in Europe “cannot be delivered without a significant increase in investment in higher education”.
“If the investment is not made, the future talent pipeline for the workforce will be jeopardised and the country’s competitive edge will be at serious risk,” Miley explained.
John MacGabhann, General Secretary of the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) stated: “The failure by government to prioritise investment in Higher Education has significantly diminished the quality of the student experience and is causing reputational injury to the nation’s higher education institutions. ”
This campaign follows the announcement earlier this month of the Department of Education’s plans to triple investment in higher education as part of Project Ireland 2040, with the budget for high education increasing from €0.8 billion to €2.2 billion.
In the coalition of interests, universities and institutes of technology are represented by IUA and the Technological Higher Education Association (THEA) respectively, with third level students represented by USI, and teaching staff represented by Irish Federation of University Teachers (IFUT) and TUI.