On Monday 15th October, the seven universities of Ireland (Trinity, UCD, DCU, UCC, NUIG, UL and NUI Maynooth) launched a major campaign aimed at encouraging the public to demand the Government tackles the funding crisis in third level education. The Government’s funding per third level student in Ireland (€5,000) is just half of the same funding ten years ago, and is only a fraction of the amount paid by other Governments in similar-sized European Countries. Despite a small increase in the Budget 2019, it’s unlikely to address the major gap in funding.
Given the lack of state action, the Irish Universities Association (IUA) has developed the Save Our Spark campaign in order to raise awareness of the crisis and encourage members of the public to sign a petition urging local TD’s and Senators to act. This campaign follows two years of inaction from the Government after the publication of the Cassells Report.
The Cassells Report, an independent report into higher education funding, conducted by a group chaired by Peter Cassells, published in 2016, proposed three possible ways the state could fund the higher-education sector. The options proposed included the abolition of the student contribution and the creation of a primarily state-funded system, the continuation of the current student contribution charge coupled with increased state investment and the introduction of an income-contingent loan system. In two of the three options, state funding would increase to about 80% of the sector. The loan system would increase state funding to 55-60%. The report also outlined the expected cost of each option to the state. It was estimated that a predominantly state-funded system would cost an addition €1.3 billion per year by 2030, the state-funding combined with the student contribution fee would cost €1 billion per year by 2030 and the loan scheme was estimated to cost the state between €1,307 million and €1,1157 million.
A series of adverts are set to run on both national and regional radio stations, while also appearing on train and bus services across Dublin, Limerick, Cork and Galway, as well as on the Dart. A video, specially created to highlight the crisis, will also be promoted across sites such as YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Speaking about the campaign, Jim Miley, Director General of the IUA, said “If the higher education crisis is not addressed by Government urgently, then we risk a serious drop in quality or a shortfall in places for students in the future. For the first time ever, all seven Irish universities are coming together to demand urgent action on the funding crisis, as we need substantial investment to accommodate the extra students that are expected to enter the system over the next decade. Our universities are where the Irish spark burns brightest and the key to protecting that spark is securing better state funding. The Government simply can’t continue to ignore this crisis”.
The Irish University Association is the representative body for all seven of Ireland’s third level institutions. The association’s council is made up of the provost and presidents of these seven universities. The presidency of the association rotates annually between members of the council, with UCC President, Patrick O’Shea, currently presiding in the role.
For more information regarding the ‘Save Our Sparks’ campaign, please visit the Save Our Spark website at www.saveoursparks.ie.