The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) has expressed its disappointment with the Government’s budget last week for failing to address the number issues facing the third-level education sector. In statements made to the press in the aftermath of the budget’s announcement last week USI President Síona Cahill attacked the budget for failing to tackle any of the key areas outlined in the USI pre-budget submission/ Cahill said ‘Our students continue to face the second highest fees in Europe, haven’t seen any grant increases since they were cut during austerity years, and now face an unprecedented crisis in the availability of accommodation and in the quality of living standards.’
These complaints come as only an extra €57 million was set aside in the higher education budget for the forthcoming year, almost half of which is due to address the current growing student numbers. All of this is amidst calls from Universities and Students Unions across the country for the Government to address the funding crisis facing third level institutions across the country. State funding for third level education was sharply cut in the mists of the financial crisis after 2008 and has never recovered. This has led to the student staff ratios on campus to grow alongside an increased need for these institutions to tap alternative funding sources such as private donors.
It also in the minds of many represents yet another missed opportunity to address the matter of student funding for third level education. The Cassells report which was published in mid-2016 laid out three options for funding the long-term future of the higher education sector, including the option for student loans to be introduced with state backing. This report has not yet been acted upon despite calls over the last two years from numerous areas.
The Irish Universities Association the representative body for Universities also criticised the lack of funding for capital projects and building projects. In a post-budget statement Jim Miley, the Director-General said ‘a funding requirement of at least €104 million in 2019 was proposed by the Irish Universities Association as part of a 5-year University Capital Refurbishment Programme’ none of which was met in this budget.
No response was received from UCD Students Union with regards to the budget at the time of going to print.
By Aaron Bowman – CoEditor