The Irish Federation of University Teachers (IFUT) is calling for a comprehensive plan for third-level education funding from the Irish Government.
IFUT criticised the giving of ‘piecemeal announcements’ from the government instead of creating a clear funding plan for third level education in Ireland, which has suffered from both higher costs for students, less stable work and pay for teaching staff, and declining staff-student ratios.
“We must not allow a ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’ approach for the patchwork announcements emanating on a regular basis recently,” said Joan Donegan, Secretary General of the IFUT. “The government must face up to the need to comprehensively address the issues identified by the Cassells Report published 18 months ago and explain why the Report on the Oireachtas Committee on education remains unpublished.”
“The continued emphasis on more competitive funding for higher education and stronger links with the needs of industry will accentuate the imbalance that has been developing in third level education and overemphasises a ‘training’ attitude to the role of universities,” Donegan continued.
The Cassells Report, which prompted a student demonstration in Dublin, recommended a government reform of university funding, either by increased state support or by the introduction of a student loan system. It also encouraged a state funding increase of at least 55% and up to 80%.
Others have joined the call on the government to solve the funding crisis, including the Union of Students in Ireland (USI), in light of a Eurostat report that compared Ireland’s tuition fees unfavourably to the rest of the EU. Ireland has the second most expensive education costs in the EU, just behind the UK.
36% of students are struggling financially, with 27% of full-time and 77% of part-time students working alongside their studies.
“Students are angry, they’re suffering and we haven’t really heard anything from the minister in regards to increased financial support for students, whether that’s through SUSI (Student Universal Support Ireland), thresholds being increased or through adjacency rates being reversed.” said Michael Kerrigan, USI president, who has called for fees to be returned to pre-2011 levels. The current student contribution fee of €3000 came about as a result of increases starting in 2011 that eventually doubled the cost of education, part of Fine Gael’s cutbacks in the face of austerity.
IFUT proposed to the Working Group on Funding in Higher Education that a portion of corporation tax be ring-fenced for third level education. It also called for a portion of the money due to the state from Apple in unpaid tax to be set aside and used as funding benefits for universities, and that a working group between the Revenue Commission, the Department of Finance and those involved in the third-level sector be created and a policy set. “Real funding decisions, not piecemeal announcements, are required urgently,” Joan Donegan said.