TCDSU criticises “once-off and temporary measures” in Budget 2024

The union described it as an “election budget” that aims to “dazzle students”

Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) released a statement on Budget 2024, criticising its “once-off and temporary” nature. 

In a statement released, it welcomed some measures that alleviate the burden of the cost of education on students, ultimately describing it as an “election budget” that “aims to dazzle students with once-off measures”.

The union said Budget 2024 ultimately misses the opportunity to provide “long-term and sustainable funding to the students, staff and the third-level sector as a whole”.

The union welcomed the €1000/€1500 reduction in third-level fees but expressed regret at the “once-off and temporary” nature of the reduction, stating their belief that the reduction should be made permanent to help tackle the financial barriers to education. They also welcomed the 

It noted that students’ unions had asked for significantly higher increases in the Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI) maintenance grant rate, namely a €615 increase to all non-adjacent rates and a 10% increase to all adjacent rates from September 2024. 

Expressing their disappointment at the lack of action on the scarcity and unaffordability of student accommodation, they said: “As asked for by the Union of Students Ireland (USI), we believe the budget surplus could have been used to alleviate the student accommodation crisis”. 

“While we appreciate that students will receive a €750 reimbursement, we note that the tax break worth between €600 to €1,000 for landlords signifies the continuation of the government’s reliance on the market to deliver housing.

“Furthermore, with the housing and the cost-of-living crisis there are significant concerns that despite the tweaks, students will continue to have a difficult time accessing education, and further dropping out or deferring their studies.”

The statement also criticised the Budget for increasing the minimum wage to €12.70 instead of the estimated €14.80 living wage for a full-time worker, also reiterating calls for abolishing sub-minimum wage rates for under-20s.

On postgraduate researchers and staff, it said that they were left in a “difficult” position compared to students who benefited from once-off measures. Expressing their concern that “overworked, underpaid and exploited staff are delivering teaching under increasing pressure in our academic institution”, TCDSU said that despite a €35m investment into core funding for pay, there is no guarantee that it will be used to address the situation of precarious academic staff.

From January, postgraduate researchers funded by the Irish Research Council (IRC) and Science Foundation will have their stipends increased by €3,000, a move which TCDSU described as “breadcrumbs for a select few”, as only approximately 30% of postgraduate researchers are funded by the IRC or SFI. They similarly criticised the fact that the €3,000 increase is below both the minimum wage and living wage, and falls below the €25,000 amount recommended by a government-commissioned report in June. sick leave and parental leave

The Postgraduate Workers Organisation (PWO) also expressed their disappointment at Budget 2024, saying: “PhD researchers receive an average stipend of €16,490 per annum. And while measures such as the increase of minimum wage by €1.40 per hour or the approval of a rent tax credit of €750 for tenants presumably aim to relieve some of the burden of the increasing cost of living crisis, PhD researchers are not only excluded from any of these due to their ‘student’ status but are actively harmed”.

PWO expressed similar disappointment at the increasing gap between PhD stipends and the minimum wage, the fact that PhD researchers are not entitled to sick leave or parental leave, and the failure to match the recommended stipend of €25,000 by a government-commissioned independent report.

On investment in infrastructure, fixing student-staff ratios, and improving student services such as counselling and health, TCDSU said that “the €307 million gap that was identified by the government received €40 million in 2023, and €60 million in 2024, but this falls short of what is needed”.

“Also, despite the introduction of the Research and Innovation Bill 2023, which, if passed, will alter the research landscape in Ireland, the research budget has decreased by 3% since last year.”

The statement ended with an assertion that the Budget “follows laissez-faire economic policies, and puts the mantle in the hands of the market to deliver on housing, healthcare and education, in line with previous actions of the coalition”. 

“Overall, the TCDSU see this as an election budget, which aims to dazzle students with once-off measures, but is ultimately a missed opportunity to provide long-term and sustainable funding to the students, staff and the third-level sector as a whole.”

The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) earlier last week expressed similar sentiments to TCDSU, welcoming some of the once-off measures to help with the high cost of going to college, ultimately describing the Budget as “an overall disappointment”. 

Referencing the demonstration a week previous which called on government to use some of its projected €65bn “rainy day fund” to tackle the student accommodation crisis and the rising cost of going to college, USI President Chris Clifford said that “while there was tinkering at the edges, and some support given, this just didn’t happen today”. 

“As far as USI is concerned, that was a deliberate choice made by this Government.”

“There were signs today that government [have] heard and seen our protests. They obviously know the Student Contribution is way too high, rent is a nightmare, and the supports available aren’t enough. But they haven’t done what is needed”, he added.

Clifford ended with a promise: “We will absolutely be keeping the pressure on”.