On the 4th of October, students from all over the country will descend onto the capital for the Union of Students in Ireland’s (USI) March for Education, to call on the government to invest in third level education. A decision on the future of funding higher education is due to be reached soon, and the March will coincide with the fast approaching Budget 2018.
Last year, UCD Student’s Union (UCDSU) took part in the March for Education to protest against library cuts on campus. Katie Ascough, UCDSU President, told the Tribune that this year the Union’s message at the March ‘will have a strong emphasis on the dire need for our government to heavily invest in higher education, and we will be advocating for publicly funded higher education as per UCD students’ vote in March 2017.’ Students voted in a referendum back in March for the Union to campaign for ‘significantly lower fees.’ Ascough confirmed she would be in attendance at the March. She is ‘really looking forward to attending’ it and is hoping to ‘bring as many UCD students with us as possible.’
Robert Sweeney, UCDSU Education Officer, recently spoke to the Tribune about higher education funding. He said that ‘Fine Gael stated in its manifesto that €100m was required in additional funding for higher education “just to stand still.” Despite this it committed only €36.5 million in the last budget to higher education, a major shortfall.’ He explained how UCDSU would ‘continue to demand that the government lives up to its commitments to properly fund higher level education’ and that they ‘will be delivering this message loud and clear at the forthcoming “Education is in the Red” March on October 4th.’
USI has a long history of national demonstrations, with several major marches held regarding education issues over the past few years. In 2010, the ‘Education not Emigration’ saw up to 40,000 people take to the streets of Dublin to protest. Numbers have declined since then but the march remains a significant date in students’ calendars. Dublin was removed as the focus of the march in 2013 and instead several smaller demonstrations were held for USI’s ‘Fight For Your Future Now.’ Last year’s March saw a 12,000-strong crowd walk to Merrion Square for free fees and increased college funding.
Alison Graham – News Editor