The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) has recently launched a new campaign known as “Education for All” which calls for the department of education to make third-level education more widely accessible.
The USI represents some 374,000 students across Ireland, and has written to the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris, calling on him to tackle obstacles which prevent many from being able to receive a third-level education.
One part of the pledge is the removal of the student contribution charge of €3,000. With the removal of the UK from the EU, this now places Ireland as having the highest charge in all of Europe. The Education for All campaign calls for the removal of this charge, as it disincentivises and prevents students from availing of a third-level education. A similar approach has been taken in Germany, Greece and Denmark, whereby there is no charge placed on first time undergraduates. These are three of eleven countries within which students have to pay no fees.
Speaking to The College Tribune, Craig McHugh, Vice President of the USI, stated that the Education for All campaign is “really a push on making representatives take these issues seriously and to begin meaningful relationships between students and their representatives.” They have had actions “across the Island, both North and South” which aims to have representatives take these issues seriously, and work with their local student unions on issues such as higher education funding, and student accommodation.
While the current restrictions prohibit the ability for mass protests, the USI have changed tact, and continue to plan actions to press on these issues in the coming future. They have made a petition which allows any student to sign up to as a way to demonstrate the widespread “support and anger at being charged the highest fees in the EU.”
In asking about the involvement of the UCDSU in the campaign, Craig stated that should the UCDSU work on a similar campaign, they would always echo their efforts, however UCDSU have not been a member of the USI since their disaffiliation with the union in 2013.
Similarly, within the pledge, the USI calls for a change in the overreliance upon the private sector for providing accommodation for students. In a rental price report conducted by Daft.ie, the average rental price for Ireland is €1,334. This figures comes out to be 30% higher than peak figures in 2008, with Dublin prices rising 10.9% year-on-year. The Education for All calls for a “publicly-financed student accommodation building strategy and charter for student tenant rights.”
Adam Doyle – Reporter