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Student loans no way to fund education

Sir, – We are representatives of the students across Ireland – students keen to gain skills and qualifications and play our part in building Ireland’s future.

The proposal of any kind of student loan scheme in Ireland is wholly unacceptable and is widely understood as an inequitable way to fund education, as well as having been consistently shown to be a failure when implemented in the UK and Australia and contributing to significant deficits in the public purse. The Cassells report, published in March 2016, was deliberately ignored and neglected, and instead has been kicked to Europe. The students of Ireland do not condone the delay in a sustainable and fair funding model for higher education.

The maintenance of the “free fees” scheme, which forces students to choose between staying in college and eating, is also not a viable option. We now have the second highest fees in Europe at €3,000 a year, coupled with the spiralling costs of accommodation across all urban centres.

After Brexit, we will be the highest fees for students accessing third level in the European Union.

Meanwhile, student grants have not been increased at all since 2012, which means they are nowhere near in line with the cost of living for struggling and particularly disadvantaged students – it is a disgrace, and it makes education elitist and inaccessible for so many.

The sector has faced a managed decline in state investment over time while the number of students in the system increased due to a demographic bulge. Our lecturers and institutional staff have done a noteworthy job of maintaining standards while our staff to student ratio has been driven up, resources have dipped, and they are living on increasingly precarious contracts of employment – the system itself is on a cliff.

On Thursday March 21st, students and staff of institutions will join together on campuses across Ireland to call on the Government to #FundTheFuture, supported by students at second level, whose very education is at stake. We believe that the future of Ireland as a researching, skills-generating nation can be assured by a real and full-throated investment in higher education.

The history books of the future should cast 2019 as the year we decided to strike out as the skills and education capital of Europe. Investment of the proceeds of Ireland’s growth in education and skills would be a courageous and mature societal investment in sustainability, stability and a sound footing for the future of Ireland itself, and ensure education, which is a public good, is publicly funded and free to access. – Yours, etc,

SÍONA CAHILL,

President,

Union of Students

in Ireland;

OLIVIA

POTTER-HUGHES,

President,

NUS-USI;

ALAN HAYES,

President,

UCC Students’ Union;

MEGAN REILLY,

President,

NUI Galway

Students’ Union;

LEON DIOP,

President,

Maynooth Students’ Union;

CHLOE POWER,

President,

IADT Students’ Union

MARIA McGUIRE,

President,

DKIT Students’ Union;

PIERRE YIMBOG,

President,

DIT Students’ Union;

ROSS KELLY,

President,

NCAD Students’ Union;

PAUL LYNCH,

President,

LYIT Students’ Union;

JESS MURPHY,

President,

IT Tralee Students’ Union;

RICHARD MORRELL,

President,

IT Carlow

Students’ Union;

MARIE LYONS,

President,

St Angela’s College Sligo

Students’ Union;

VANESSA MOLLOY,

President,

IT Sligo Students’ Union;

AMANDA BOWES,

President,

Carlow College

Students’ Union;

AARON BURKE,

President,

GMIT Students’ Union;

KRIS SULKOWSKI,

President,

IT Blanchardstown;

Students’ Union

OISÍN MOLOUGHNEY,

President,

AIT Students’ Union;

SHANE DE RÍS,

President,

TCD Students’ Union;

AMY KEATINGE,

President,

IT Tallaght Students’ Union;

ASHLING McGRORY,

President,

LIT Students’ Union;

KEVIN McSTRAVOCK,

President,

UU Students’ Union;

MARIE SHEEDY,

President,

WIT Students’ Union

CONNOR VEIGHEY,

President,

QUB Students’ Union;

KERRY McQUILLAN,

President,

Stranmillis University

Students’ Union;

AARON BUCKLEY,

President,

CIT Students’ Union;

SEAN McMAHON,

President,

NCI Students’ Union;

VITO MALONEY BURKE,

President,

DCU Students’ Union.