Students to protest for publicly-funded third level education

Union of Students in Ireland calls for greater investment in education by Government

The demonstration on October 19th is expected to draw over 5,000 students from across Ireland. Photograph: Frank Miller/The Irish Times

The demonstration on October 19th is expected to draw over 5,000 students from across Ireland. Photograph: Frank Miller/The Irish Times

 

The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) has announced they will hold a national demonstration on October 19th calling on the Government to invest in publicly-funded third level education.

The demonstration, which is expected to draw over 5,000 students from across Ireland, will call on government officials and the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Education and Skills to invest in the publicly-funded third level education model as outlined in the Cassells report published in July.

The report warned that the funding system for the State’s higher education was not sustainable and would lead to a sharp decline in the quality of graduates unless tackled soon.

It proposed three main options for the Irish system: ‘free’ education which is entirely funded by the State; maintaining the current €3,000 student charge, along with increased State funding; or a student loan scheme.

The USI has warned that an income-contingent loan scheme is not a viable solution to third level funding as a debt-burden would deter people from applying to college.

USI President Annie Hoey warned that the status quo “isn’t working” and that third level education had become unaffordable and was slipping down on the QS World University Rankings.

“The loan scheme option put forward in the Cassells report is unsustainable,” said Ms Hoey.

“It will increase emigration, saddle young people with a mortgage-modelled debt and widen the gap between the rich and the poor.

“America’s student loan debt ($1tn+) is greater in value than the combined economies of Ireland, New Zealand, and Australia, ” she said.

“In other words, American students owe the combined value of all transactions in those countries in a year.”

Ireland’s top universities have been sliding down the rankings due largely to issues linked to long-term underfunding, worsening staff to student ratios and greatly diminished capacity for research.

Eight years of spending cuts, rising student numbers and falling numbers of academic staff are taking their toll across the wider higher education sector.

State funding has dropped almost 40 per cent, from €1.4 billion in 2007-08 to about €860 million this year, while hikes in the student registration charge – which has ballooned to about €3,000 a year – have failed to plug the gap.