The USI are on the march yet again. November 16th will doubtless see thousands of students take to the streets to protest in light of new fears that the student contribution will rise to €5, pharm 000.
Commentators have stated their fears that USI has backed down on their promises to fight fees in all their forms. The new campaign has been criticised as accepting fees rather than fighting for their eradication. Rising fears are that certain student groups are encouraging the rumour of a fee rise to €5,000 in order that a rise to €3,000 would seem as some small victory. In all reality, €5,000 seems an unlikely figure. What students can expect from this year’s budget is a rise of between €500 and €1,000. It would be unsurprising if a graduate tax was introduced also to help tackle the country’s economic problems.
It is important to remember that any increase in the student contribution does not necessarily mean that there will be an improvement in the quality of education or indeed that any extra money will be allotted towards paying for education. In an interview with the College Tribune, Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn stated that 80% of his budget is spent on paying salaries, an inordinate amount given the ever falling standards of education in this country. An article in The Irish Times dated November 9th 2010, outlined that UCD had 5 out of 10 of the country’s highest paid workers in education each earning over €200,000 on a yearly basis. It is difficult to imagine that any rise in the student contribution will benefit students in any way other than to keep the well paid bureaucracy well paid.
Last year’s march saw a number of students occupying the Department of Finance and the heavy-handed approach of An Garda Síochána in the forceful removal of these people from the premises. The hijacking of a march by a group of individuals was condemned by USI as well as the media while the actions of the Gardaí towards peaceful protestors led to a broader questioning of our police force and their responsibility in keeping the peace. At the time of going to print FEE have refused to rule out another attempt at occupying government buildings. It is important to remember that the inappropriate action of any student on November 16th will reflect on the student body as a whole.
Minister Quinn’s comment regarding the threat of a march by USI should enlighten students to the attitude of the government regarding their senior representative body. “The USI has to do what it feels it has to do” seem the words of a man with bigger worries than a bunch of students clamouring over a rise in fee payments.
Irish students feel ignored and upset at a government who’s constituent party promised to reduce the student contribution back to €1,500. While some students are in a financial position to stay in college, many aren’t. The increase in the student contribution will affect everyone in one way or another, whether it’s an extra strain on parents or it forces students out of college. For this generation, the prospects of third-level education have never looked so grim. While it is important to be realistic, it is also important to stand by friends, family and other students who may be facing financial difficulty. The decision is yours: march or not, but remember that your absence or presence could determine the outcome. So get informed and get active in the debate.
These are dark times. Young people are leaving in ever-increasing numbers in search of better opportunities. The lack of jobs is not all that is driving people abroad; the current mind set of this nation is depressing. The media is consistently full of reports of job losses, emigration, corruption in the banking sector and the failure of politicians to deal with it. There is little for students to look forward to upon finishing education. A little positivity never goes astray however: there are jobs out there for those willing to work. Perhaps what the people of this country needs more than anything is a change in mindset. If we moved past the bitterness of corruption and negligence and focussed on where we can improve, would we not be better off?