Cross-border campaign calls for immediate change in higher education funding

The campaign is calling on TDs to sign a pledge committing to several actions as part of the new Education for All campaign

A new campaign from students’ unions around the country is calling for immediate action on higher education funding in both Northern Ireland and the Republic. 

Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) has joined the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) and the National Union of Students (NUS-USI) in Northern Ireland in the launch of the “Education for All” campaign, which is calling for change in how higher education is funded. 

The campaign, which is being run by students’ unions across the country, is calling on TDs to sign a pledge committing to six actions under the Education for All campaign.

USI has written an open letter to Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris and Northern Ireland’s Minister for Economy Dianne Dodds to call on them to take action on a number of issues related to higher education.

The campaign is asking for an end to the student contribution charge of €3000 and tuition fees in Northern Ireland, an end to the study now pay later and earn and learn policies, and for a move toward publicly funded education to be put at the heart of government policy. 

Speaking to Trinity News, TCDSU stated: “Today, across the island of Ireland students are calling on their TDs to sign up to a ‘pledge’ which would commit them to campaigning on the issues outlined in the letter to Minister Harris.”

“TCDSU are urging local representatives to sign up to the pledge and to regular meetings with SU officers to push the issues of Higher Ed funding to the forefront of the political agenda,” the union continued.

USI is also calling for a publicly financed student accommodation building strategy and charter for student tenant rights, a reform of student supports across the island that “match the cost of being a student in the new decade”, and a plan to address “the crisis in Irish creative institutions”.

The union is also calling for an end to “precarious working conditions” for academic staff.

Discussing the Education for All campaign, USI President Lorna Fitzpatrick said: “The student contribution charge is a major barrier to many people on the island of Ireland accessing higher education.”

Fitzpatrick added: “Today, students are calling on their TDs to sign our pledge and make a commitment to campaign on the issues outlined in the letter to Minister Harris. USI is urging local public representatives to sign the pledge and commit to regular meetings with their local Students’ Union officers to push the issue of higher education funding to the forefront of the political agenda.” 

“Education is the great liberator and as we enter a very difficult time for our economy and our society, making such a bold long-term investment could reshape our country’s recovery,” Fitzpatrick explained. 

“For instance, every €1 invested into higher education, delivers a €4 return to the wider economy. Higher education funding will boost economic activity, create jobs and further enhance innovation and investment into Ireland.” 

Explaining what will be involved in Education for All, USI Vice President for Campaigns, Craig McHugh said: “The USI and Students’ Unions will be encouraging students to get involved in the campaign and contact their local representatives. The pledge is available at and we will continue to call on every TD to sign the pledge and commit to working with us on these vital issues which prevent Ireland from proving Education for All.” 

USI also commented on the states “over-reliance” on the private sector to meet student accommodation needs, and this has also been outlined in the letter to Minister Harris. 

In previous discussions with the USI, Harris has already recognised the need for more public investment in student housing. 

The USI continued to explain that the union “believes that government building and regulating student housing would alleviate significant pressure on the private housing market”.

Shannon Connolly

Shannon Connolly is the Editor-in-Chief of the 69th volume Trinity News, and a Senior Sophister student of English Literature and Philosophy. She previously served as Deputy Editor, News Editor and Assistant News Editor.