These motions span all AAQA, AA and ED policies still in force at USI.  Errors and Omissions Excepted.

15 EM AAQA 1

Congress extends:

Profound feelings of solidarity to the students currently engaged in protest in NCAD.

Congress welcomes:

The activism of NCAD students to fight against the financialisation of their education.

Congress reiterates:

Its belief in an education system that is meaningful, accessible and publicly funded.

Congress mandates the USI President and the USI VP Campaigns officer:

To give support to these NCAD students in their campaign.

 

15 EM AAQA 2

Congress notes with grave concern:

The recent developments in relation to the proposed incorporation of St. Angela’s into NUI Galway.

Congress further notes:

The action taken by staff unions and the concerns they have raised against the management of both institutions.

Congress acknowledges:

That students have not been sufficiently engaged with in relation to the proposed incorporation and there is a need for absolute clarity of the implications of the incorporation for students.

Congress therefore mandates:

The USI President to engage with the HEA and the Minister of Education and Skills to voice concerns regarding the incorporation from the perspective of students and to report back to the next National Council.

 

15 AAQA 1 Academic Teaching Staff Annual Leave and the Examination and Examination Appeals Process.

 

Congress recognises

That the current academic teaching staff annual leave agreement has significant repercussions for the examination and examination appeals process and that furthermore that the current situation in some institutions where students who appeal their summer examination results will not receive the outcome of this appeal until after the Autumn examinations take place is grossly unfair to students and almost defeats the purpose of appealing an examination result.

Congress further recognises

That this agreement has led, in several institutions, to Christmas examinations being scheduled before as well as after the festive period in turn delaying the examination results and appeals process, as well as many academics in third level institutions being on annual leave during the summer from the 20th June to 1st September similarly delaying the examination results and appeals process.

Congress believes

That this current system in regards to academic teaching staff annual leave affects the academic quality of service delivered to students in terms of students having to wait for up to four months to receive the outcome of an examination result appeal and in many cases having no other choice than to sit Autumn exams in failed modules to secure their chances of progressing to the next year of study or in order to be conferred at the next available sitting.

Congress further believes

The adjustment of bringing forward the start of the academic calendar by one week will alleviate the pressures on the examination correction period and the processing of appeals and that the current length of lecturing staffs’ summer break should be looked at and compared to other members of the public sector’s holiday entitlements.

Congress therefore mandates

The Vice President for Academic Affairs & Quality Assurance and the President to negotiate with the relevant bodies to adjust the academic teaching staffs working calendar.

 

15 AAQA 2 Investment in Education

Congress notes

The Brazilian method for corporate investment in education, i.e. 1.5% of corporate profits are re-invested into research and development.

Congress further notes

That this decision was reached collaboratively between Government, business and universities and has produced beneficial results.

Congress Mandates

All members of Officer Board to lobby for a similar system for investment in third level in Ireland.

 

15 AAQA 3 Financial concerns

Congress notes

That both education and welfare officers deal with financial issues in their Students’ Unions.

Congress further notes

That the current structure of working groups does not allow for optimum access to support for all officers on financial issues and casework.

Congress mandates

VP Welfare and VP AAQA to collaborate to ensure that relevant officers receive training and support on financial issues.

Congress further mandates

VP Welfare and VP AAQA to run a working group on the issue at suitable event before September.

15 AAQA 4 Students outside the grant threshold: Carried

Congress notes:

The valuable work undertaken by USI and MOs in relation to preserving the student grant and fighting for its retention

Congress further notes:

The importance of the student grant in allowing students from challenging socio-economic backgrounds to attend third level education in Ireland, but also must acknowledge the difficulty for students and families who are not in receipt of the grant or any other financial bursaries from the state.

Congress therefore mandates:

The VP AAQA to undertake campaigns and strategies to increase awareness about the financial difficulties facing students not in receipt of the grant, and to campaign for the means testing of the grant to take place after tax has been deducted from the gross household income.

 

15 AAQA 5 Universal fee payment dates

Congress notes

That there are a number of different ways in which students are expected to pay their Student Contribution Charge, depending on the institution.

Congress Further Notes

This may create confusion among students. Furthermore some systems are more sympathetic to students than others.

Congress Mandates

VP AAQA and VP Welfare to work with Students’ Unions and the relevant groups to establish universal payment dates in institutions.

Congress Further Mandates

VP AAQA and VP Welfare to work with Students’ Unions and the relevant groups to set a universal payment method in institutions.

15 AAQA 6 Irish water & the grant

Congress notes

The introduction of a household charge for water on foot of the creation of Irish Water.

Congress further notes

The revised charging system introduced through the Water Services Act 2014. This includes a ‘Water Conservation Grant’ of €100 which Irish Water applicants can obtain through the Department of Social Protection, administered on behalf of the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government.

Congress is concerned that

This payment may be taken into account in Income assessments of student grants and that this could affect applicants who are on the border of eligibility.

Congress therefore mandates

The Vice-President for Academic Affairs & Quality Assurance to lobby the relevant authority to see that the ‘Water Conservation Grant’ is not assessed as a source of Income and that it is put on the list of Disregarded Sources of Income.

 

15 AAQA 7 Technological university supports

 

Congress acknowledges:

The work, which has been done to date with MO’s going through the Technological University (TU) process.

Congress also acknowledges:

The integral role of Students’ Unions in these MO’s to informing students of their rights and safeguarding them in the TU process.

Congress mandates: 

The Vice President for the South, BMW and Dublin to engage with Students’ Unions in MO’s currently going through the TU process.

Congress also mandates: 

The Vice President for the South, BMW and Dublin to work actively with Students’ Unions in MO’s who in the future may be involved in a TU process.

15 AAQA 8 Student Governance

Congress notes with concern:

The importance of participation in all levels of governance of higher education institutions.

Congress further notes:

Some bureaucratic management practices in higher education institutions can lead to a lack of openness and which can impede the efforts of student representatives.

Congress therefore mandates:

The President and Vice-President for Academic affairs and Quality Assurance to encourage all HEIs to examine governance structures at all levels, and to ensure students are represented.     

 

15 AAQA 9 Lateral Violence

Congress notes

That the issue of lateral violence in Health Sciences, particularly nursing and midwifery is well recognised in many countries including the USA and Australia.

Congress further notes

That similar recognition does not exist in Ireland in spite of the detrimental effect on those training or employed in these areas.

Congress therefore mandates

The Vice President for AAQA and Vice President for Welfare to investigate the extent of the problem in Ireland and the subsequent consequences for those effected with a view to informing Member Organisations on the issue.

 

15 AAQA 10 Cross-border student mobility

 

Congress believes:

  • Currently there is very low cross-border student mobility between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland
  • That education should be free and fairly funded- this also goes for the students who chose to travel over the border for their education
  • Every student should be able to access support for travel, course costs, maintenance support and studying cross-border should not be a barrier to support.

 

Congress notes:

  • In 1996/97, almost one in 10 students in the NI colleges were from the Republic – 9.3%, but in 2012/13, this fell to just 5.5%.
  • The number of RoI domiciled students enrolled in NI Higher Education Institutions in 2012/13 was 2,835 and the number of RoI students studying in FE institutions in 2012/13 was 3,324.
  • In 2012/13 only 980 students from NI travelled over the border to study in Irish institutions.
  • RoI students in NI often have trouble accessing the right information about the SUSI grant which is available to them, which can then lead to financial hardship.

 

Congress mandates:

  • VPAAQA to work with the NUS-USI President to explore ways we can increase cross-border student mobility
  • VPAAQA to work with NUS-USI to lobby the respective governments to provide adequate financial support for students studying over the border

 

 

14 AAQA 1   USI/NERI THIRD-LEVEL FUNDING POLICY

Congress notes:

Congress policy 11/ ED 11 mandating Officer Board to compile a single comprehensive and

researched document on the public-funding model proposed through various USI policies.

Congress applauds:

The securing of research support from the Nevin Economic Research Institute on areas of shared concern, including initially the development of a public-funding policy for third-level on behalf of USI, as part of the SIPTU-USI Agreement.

Congress believes:

This provides USI with credible, well-researched and solutions-based policy for which to advance the argument in favour of our ideological position on third-level funding.

Congress approves:

The third-level funding policy paper developed by NERI as USI policy.

Congress mandates:

USI Officer Board to campaign and lobby extensively for the adoption of this policy as the roadmap for the future funding of the Irish Higher Education system, through every possible political, media and policy platform.

 

14 AAQA 2   ALTERNATIVE ADMISSIONS

Congress regrets:

The almost exclusive focus of the current third-level admissions route on prior academic attainment.

Congress believes:

That taking into consideration contextual data can ensure that an individual’s true potential for performance in higher education is considered.

Congress also believes:

That such consideration would broaden the socio-economic demographic of the third-level student body; the current admissions system disproportionately advantages applicants from fee-paying secondary schools.

Congress notes with approval:

That an Irish Universities Association (IUA) alternative admissions route is being piloted in Trinity College Dublin. The alternative route shall offer 7530 students in total a place in a competitive Level 8 degree programme in September 2014 on the basis of Leaving Certificate results, performance relative to classmates, and a personal statement.

Congress mandates:

That the USI shall support initiatives to create an alternative common admissions route for all publicly-funded third-level institutions where contextual data, including but not limited to socio-

economic background, is considered in addition to prior academic attainment.

Congress also mandates:

The President to lobby for state investment in retention activities to prevent disproportionate drop out levels of those from non-traditional backgrounds.

Congress further mandates:

The President and the VP Academic Affairs & Quality Assurance to lobby for improved information, advice and guidance and careers information at all levels of education.

 

14 AAQA 3   CONSULTATION ON THE DISTRIBUTION OF THE STUDENT CONTRIBUTION CHARGE

Congress notes:

That in November 2011 USI agreed with the Higher Education Authority that HEIs were obliged towards ‘meaningful consultation’ with students on the expenditure of the student contribution charge.

Congress regrets:

That meaningful consultation does not occur in many institutions; most HEIs consult ineffectively and insincerely in forums where students have legally-mandated representation but are not the only representatives present.

Congress therefore mandates:

The President to work with the HEA to define best practice for ‘meaningful consultation’ in the context of the distribution of the student contribution charge, and to lobby the HEA to ensure the application of this established best practice.

 

14 AAQA 5   ACADEMIC TEACHING STAFF ANNUAL LEAVE

Congress recognises:

The current academic teaching staff annual leave agreement has significant repercussions for the examination process.

Congress further recognises:

This agreement has led, in several institutions, Christmas examinations being scheduled for after the festive period and similarly delays the examination results and appeals process.

 

Congress believes:

This delay affects the academic quality of submitted coursework with students having to divide time between their studies and traveling home to their respective families during this time.

Congress further believes:

The adjustment of bringing forward the start of the academic calendar by one week will alleviate the pressures on the examination correction period and the processing of appeals.

Congress therefore mandates:

The Vice President for Academic Affairs & Quality Assurance and the President to negotiate with the relevant bodies to adjust the academic teaching staffs working calendar by March 2015.

 

14 AAQA 6   THE ROLE OF THE STUDENT IN THE GOVERNANCE OF IRISH HIGHER EDUCATION INSTITUTES

Congress notes:

That a review of how Third Level places of study are governed is imminent.

Congress notes with concern:

Widespread evidence of Irish Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) becoming increasingly undemocratic in their approaches to decision making, and the negative and potentially destructive impact that this could have on the student democracy and the voice of the student overall.

Congress affirms:

That students are the key stakeholder in any college’s community and that this should be reflected in governance structures.

Congress mandates:

The President to arrange for a USI white paper on Irish HEIs as Democratic Institutions for presentation at the June National Council, in order to form part of a lobby of relevant bodies and policies.

Congress also mandates:

That the Vice President for Campaigns and all Regional VPs assist in dissemination of this information to the grassroots as part of the campaign.

 

14 AAQA 7   STUDENT REPRESENTATIVES QUALITY ASSURANCE POOL

Congress commends:

The work completed to date on mandate 12/AA 2 which calls for the establishment of an agency for student training in Quality Assurance.

Congress recognises:

The importance of student participation in Quality Assurance review procedures including modular, programmatic, departmental and institutional reviews.

Congress notes with concern:

The many reviews which go ahead without meaningful student participation as many review organisers experience difficulty finding students to sit on reviews and the lack of consistency in training or briefing students.

Congress therefore mandates:

The Vice President for Academic Affairs and Quality Assurance to establish a pool of students who will be notified when reviews are seeking students. The Vice President for Academic Affairs and Quality Assurance will be responsible for updating the pool membership on an annual basis. The Vice President for Academic Affairs and Quality Assurance will arrange training or briefing events for the Quality Assurance Pool members.

 

14 AAQA 8   USI STUDENT FINANCE REPORT

Congress recognises:

The financial hardship many students continue to face and the affect financial concerns have on students’ wellbeing and academic performance.

Congress commends:

The work completed with Amárach Research to produce the USI Student Finance report.

Congress mandates Officerboard:

To facilitate a surveying of students at least every second academic year to gather data on student finances and related topics.

 

14 AAQA 9      USI PARTICIPATION IN ESU

Congress recognises:

That many policies and initiatives developed and agreed at European Union and European Higher Education Area level effect the Irish Higher Education system and our students.

Congress believes:

As a member of the European Students’ Union USI has an important role in the shaping of international policies and has the opportunity to inform national and local policies with international best practice.

Congress mandates:

The Officer Board members who attend each bi-annual ESU Board meeting to present a report

to the following meeting of National Council including explanations of the policies proposed and voted on by USI.

Congress also mandates:

The Vice President for Academic Affairs and Quality Assurance to co-ordinate a delegation, selected from National Council participants, to attend each bi-annual European Student Convention. The Vice President for Academic Affairs and Quality Assurance is also tasked to investigate funding opportunities to cover the associated costs.

Congress notes:

That legislation creating the Technological Universities has been enacted and that the development of the Dublin TU is now moving ahead quickly.

Congress further notes:

The agreement in principle from the three ITSUs in question to work together by way of a steering group, chaired by the USI President.

Congress affirms:

That student consultation in this development must be thorough and meaningful, with a view to students being seen as the key stakeholders at the table.

Congress mandates:

The USI President to continue to assist in ensuring that this steering group is recognised at HEA and DoE’s level as the collective representative voice of the three ITSUs.

 

14 AAQA 10 THE QUALITY OF TEACHING IN HIGHER EDUCATION

Congress recognises:

The lack of transparency regarding the measurement of the quality of teaching by academics in third level.

Congress acknowledges:

That the proposed legal amendment which will allow The Teaching Council to sanction underperforming teachers at second level, thus creating an environment of quality learning.

Congress believes:

That the third level sector needs to adopt a similar approach to ensure that students receive the best quality of education.

Congress therefore mandates:

That the VP for Academic Affairs and Quality Assurance and The President work alongside the HEA, QQI and/or all other relevant stakeholders to establish and utilise a watchdog which will monitor the quality of teaching in higher education.

14 AAQA 12 FEES FOR STUDENT APPRENTICES

Congress notes:

The publication of the Review of Apprenticeship Training in Ireland, and the consistent focus on the importance of work-based learning and apprenticeships as part of the dialogue around the Youth Guarantee.

Congress condemns:

The decision taken in Budget 2014 to impose a new pro-rata Student Contribution fee burden on student apprentices.

Congress welcomes:

The collaboration between the USI and the TEEU in launching the ‘Axe The Tax on Training’ campaign this year.

Congress mandates:

The President, Vice-President for Campaigns and Vice-President for Academic Affairs & Quality Assurance to lobby to overturn this decision in Budget 2015 and reinstate the State contribution to this fee, in conjunction with the TEEU.

 

14 AAQA 13 STUDENT AGENDA DEVELOPMENT OF THE DTU

 Congress notes:

That legislation creating the Technological Universities has been enacted and that the development of the Dublin TU is now moving ahead quickly.

Congress further notes:

The agreement in principle from the three ITSUs in question to work together by way of a steering group, chaired by the USI President.

Congress affirms:

That student consultation in this development must be thorough and meaningful, with a view to students being seen as the key stakeholders at the table.

Congress mandates:

The USI President to continue to assist in ensuring that this steering group is recognised at HEA and DoES level as the collective representative voice of the three ITSUs.

 

14 AAQA 14 SUSI SUPPORT FOR YOUNGER INDEPENDENT STUDENTS

Congress applauds:

USI’s work in dealing with the SUSI system, and particularly the vast improvement on grant payments to students this year.

Congress notes:

The large category of students who are neglected by the current SUSI application process who are not dependent on their parents between the ages of 18-23.

Congress acknowledges:

Students who are legal adults (18 + years) and support themselves through college, cannot be assessed as independent adults, unless they are mature students or have proof of estrangement.

The great difficulty many students face in claiming estrangement through the current system.

Congress notes with concern:

Students are required to inform SUSI of change in circumstances, this does not allow for a transition to financially independent living.

Students that partake in work throughout college most often do so because they would otherwise be unable to remain in college, through current systems the sum of the students earnings is added to the cumulative family income and thus further hinders the students potential to receive financial aim via the SUSI grant system regardless of whether or not they are actually receiving financial assistance from their parents.

Congress Mandates:

The VP AAQA and Officer Board to lobby and campaign for the restructuring of the SUSI grant application process to include a category for students who support themselves financially.

 

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

13 AAQA 1   ACCREDITATION FOR PARTICIPATION

Congress recognises:

The importance of student participation in extra-curricular activities such as clubs & societies, Students’ Unions, volunteering and civic engagement during their time in college, and the benefits that engaging in such activity brings about in terms of the overall personal development of the student.

Congress further recognises:

The continued promotion by Students’ Unions of students getting involved in these activities, and the associated advantages which can be conferred on students who have been active in these areas when seeking future employment.

Congress notes:

The development of modules and recognition within programmes which exist in some Higher Education Institutions to accredit students for their involvement and participation in these activities, in order to facilitate, recognise and encourage their non-academic as well as academic development whilst in college.

Congress therefore mandates:

The Vice-President for Academic Affairs & Quality Assurance to research best practice across Higher Education Institutions in this area, with a view to developing USI policy on Accreditation for Participation which may be presented to the appropriate College bodies by Students’ Unions who wish to do so. To be completed by March 2014.

 

13 AAQA 2   STUDENT REPRESENTATION ON STUDENT UNIVERSAL SUPPORT IRELAND

Congress notes:

The abysmal performance of Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI) in the academic year 2012/2013 with numerous quality assurance issues becoming ever increasingly   obvious over the operational existence of SUSI to date.

Congress further notes:

The benefits of the SUSI forum established this year in order to keep MOs informed on the ongoing.

Congress notes with concern:

The complete lack of student representation and input into the operational management of the primary source of financial assistance for students in third level education and future students of third level.

 

Congress therefore mandates:

The Vice-President of Academic Affairs & Quality Assurance to lobby the Department of Education and City Of Dublin Vocational Education Committee

(CDVEC) for a seat on the main governing body of SUSI in order to ensure the highest levels of quality assurance in the operations of SUSI in the years ahead.

 

13 AAQA 3   STUDENT CONTRIBUTION PAYMENT SCHEME

Congress notes:

The increasingly difficult financial challenges being faced by students.

Congress further notes:

The Student Contribution falls due at a time when students have other large financial commitments such as accommodation deposits and course materials.

Congress recognises:

The successful scheme in NUI Galway which allows students to pay the Student

Contribution in instalments.

Congress mandates:

The Vice President for Campaigns to lobby the Irish Universities Association and the Institutes of Technology Ireland to implement similar schemes in all universities and Institutes of technology.

 

13 AAQA 4   MIGRANT EDUCATION ACCESS

Congress notes:

That in the absence of a standardised residency test Irish third-level institutions apply an ‘EU’ fees’ category which often means migrant students pay two or three times more than typical fees charged.  Young people who have grown up in Ireland (gone to secondary school here) are denied access to financial assistance and the free fee scheme upon entry to third level.

Congress also notes:

That young people who have secured citizenship during their time in third level often unable to ‘reverse’ their fee status and have no choice but to continue to pay these high tuition fees for the remainder of their third level education. These young people are also often unable to secure higher education grants.

Congress believes:

That the Union of Students in Ireland needs to advocate for accessible education for all students and should lend support to the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland’s Migrant Education Access Campaign, including that children of non EU migrants who have come to Ireland to join their families and are here a minimum of 3 years should enjoy equality of access to third level education.

Congress mandates:

The Vice-President for Equality and Citizenship to work with the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland on their Migrant Education Access (MEA) campaign.

Congress also mandates:

T

he Vice President for Equality and Citizenship to lobby the Department of Education and Skills to take effective action to address the situation of young people who have secured Irish citizenship but are currently unable to reverse their fee status. This may require a re-examination of the criteria of access to the Free Tuition Fee Scheme currently administered by the Higher Education Authority and should result in code of practice or a revised set of criteria being outlined to all third level institutes in Ireland to ensure a coordinated, equitable and consistent response.

 

13 AAQA 5   COLLABORATIONS WITHIN ALLIANCES AND REGIONAL CLUSTERS

Congress notes:

The importance of input, engagement and involvement by Students’ Unions in the process of the future development of the Higher Education Landscape.

Congress recognises:

The considerable opportunities which exist for MO’s in delivering tangible outcomes from the process for their members by identifying best practice which exists in areas relevant to students within alliances and clusters, and lobbying for the implementation of such in all HEI’s within the alliance or cluster.

Congress mandates:

The USI President, VP for Academic Affairs & Quality Assurance and all Regional VP’s to assist MO’s in ensuring student representation is present and student input is sought in collaborative discussions taking place between HEI’s across the country, and also to assist MO’s in the identification and implementation of these best practice opportunities.

 

13 AAQA 6   GRADUATE EMPLOYABILITY

Congress notes:

That seeking employment after Third Level Education is becoming increasingly difficult for students due to economical factors and that the job hunt is becoming more competitive.

 

Congress further notes:

That employers across Ireland and the UK are ranking ‘general employability skills’ as one of the most important attributes they are seeking in graduates.

Congress mandates:

That the VP AAQA to develop a strategy for MO’s to promote graduate employability and the acquisition of generic and transferable employability skills amongst their students and to offer support and materials to education officers to do so.

 

13 AAQA 7   STUDENT RETENTION

Congress observes:

Recent findings which suggest that the single biggest cause of students dropping out of college in first year is selection of the wrong course.

Congress believes:

That the current delivery of Open Days and provision of information by colleges to potential students is stale and insufficient, and in need of reform.

Congress notes:

Developments in online learning and technologies in recent years and the considerable and growing engagement of secondary school students with these new technologies.

Congress mandates:

The USI VP for Academic Affairs and Quality Assurance to lobby the HEA to call on HEI’s to offer online campus tours, sample lectures, and taster videos of modules and programmes for inclusion on their own individual websites and the CAO website.

 

13 AAQA 8   STUDENTS RIGHTS AND ENTITLEMENTS

Congress acknowledges:

Every student’s right to a quality experience and their involvement in established quality assurance procedures as an essential element of this experience.

Congress also acknowledges:

The integral role of Students’ Unions in informing students of their rights and safeguarding them.

Congress notes with concern:

The effect that the Employment Control Framework places on HEIs and their ability to comply with local, national and European legalisation.

Congress mandates:

The Vice President for Academic Affairs & Quality Assurance to research best practice and put together a national perspective on student rights and entitlements by Congress 2014.

Congress also mandates:

The Vice President for Academic Affairs & Quality Assurance to include a briefing on ‘student involvement in quality assurance’ and the rights of students that are enshrined by legislation in the overall training plan for the SUT.

This mandate is to expire after a period of 3 years, if not re-approved by Congress.

 

13 AAQA 9   STRUCTURE OF WORK PLACEMENT ELEMENTS OF  HEI PROGRAMS AND THEIR USE IN LABOUR ACITIVIATION SCHEMES

Congress applauds:

The initiative in many Higher Educational Institutes, which embeds work placements in many of their degrees, to give students real-world application of their course content.

Congress notes:

That a correctly structured and relevant work placement can truly enhance the learning experience of the student.

Congress notes with concern:

That many work placement programs are not correctly structured, are not linked to the learning outcomes associated with the academic course and ultimately do not deliver in      the benefits to the students that they were designed to provide.

Congress therefore mandates:

The Vice President, Academic Affairs and Quality Assurance to work with Member

Organisations to accumulate current policies and practices relating to work placement programmes with a view to drafting a best practice policy that Member Organisations could use as a starting point for implementing a similar policy in their own Higher Education Institute.

This Mandate shall be fulfilled by December 2013.

Congress notes with concern:

The inadequacies of some labour activation schemes such as internships and work placements that exist in the wider community, which result in the exploitation of workers and placements that don’t offer appropriate supervision and learning opportunities.

Congress further notes:

That best practice and structures that would be developed and designed in the Higher Education

Sector, could be mirrored in labour activation schemes like Job Bridge or the proposed Youth Guarantee.

Congress further mandates:

The President and relevant Vice Presidents to engage with relevant organisations and government departments to design and develop schemes, which are beneficial to workers and builds upon best practise in the Higher Education Sector.

This mandate shall be fulfilled by December 2014.

 

13 AAQA 10 REVIEW OF CRITERIA FOR TU DESIGNATION

Congress notes:

That current USI policy mandates Officerboard to lobby Government to maintain the current criteria for the re-designation of an Institute of Technology as a Technological University, while also protecting the individual nature of Institutions as part of this process.

Congress recognises:

The considerable developments which have taken place over the past year with respect to the ever-changing nature of the HE landscape.

Congress observes:

Recent discussion documentation released by the HEA suggests that the following areas require attention following the HEA’s ‘gap analysis’:

Maintenance of L6/7 provision

Excessive/unfocussed increases in post graduate provision and research

Testing the validity of international student numbers

Congress notes with concern:

That the criteria for TU designation as currently set out may incentivise HEI’s to steer their focus in a direction that is not necessarily in keeping with their own

Institutional ethos or strengths, or in the best interests of student needs and requirements.

Congress therefore mandates:

USI Officerboard to call for the criteria for designation to be reviewed taking the findings of the ‘gap analysis’ into account, and on an ongoing basis as the future HE landscape continues to shape and evolve over the next three years.

 

 

13 AAQA 11 STUDENT COMPLAINTS PROCEDURES

Congress observes:

Recent comments by the Minister for Public Expenditure & Reform issuing a warning that the government is looking to remove underperforming teachers, and the potential appetite for change in this area.

Congress recognises:

The difficulties faced in the current environment by colleges and Students’ Unions in dealing effectively with student complaints.

Congress acknowledges:

That best practice does exist nationally within some Higher Education Institutions in developing complaints’ procedures which are more timely and efficient, afford greater student protections and offer tangible outcomes to complaints or issues which are raised than many current practices.

Congress notes:

The re-negotiation of the Croke Park Agreement, which is taking place in 2013.

Congress therefore mandates:

Appropriate members of USI Officerboard to lobby for the development and implementation of a common national Student Complaints’ Procedure, which takes into account the importance of protecting the complainant, speedy and efficient resolution of complaints, and the principles of transparency and accountability.

 

13 AAQA 12 UNPAID INTERNSHIPS

Congress notes:

The variance of opinions and evidence on the success or lack thereof of unpaid internship schemes.

Congress further notes:

Incidences have arisen of unpaid internship schemes whereby the unpaid intern was required to do work which could not be said to improve the knowledge or skill of the intern with a view to adding valuable experience to their future career prospects.

Congress acknowledges:

That finding employment is proving difficult for many graduates given the prevailing economic conditions and that internships may be a valuable method of gaining experience while protecting oneself from the harmful effects of long-term unemployment.

 

 

Congress further notes:

The increased role that internships are likely to play in the future development of Irish graduates, particularly as proposals to develop specific internship programmes in stem subjects are being developed at national level.

Congress therefore mandates:

The Vice President for Academic Affairs and Quality Assurance to develop a framework of good practice for internships in conjunction with various stakeholders including, but not limited to:

The Department of Social Protection and the Higher Education Authority

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

12 AA 1         TECHNOLOGICAL UNIVERSITY STATUS

Congress notes:

Section 8.7 of the National Strategy for Higher Education to 2030 (The Hunt Report), which relates to the evolution of the Institutes of Technology in Ireland. The strategy makes the case for a new type of University, known as a Technological University, which would have a different focus to those Universities established under the Universities Act 1997.

Congress further notes:

That this development would help to bring about a parity of esteem between both the sectors, whilst recognising that they are different in nature.

Congress notes with concern:

The risk of the Higher Education Sector becoming divided over this proposal.

Congress further notes with concern:

The impact of this potential for division on the education sector, and the reputation of the education of our members.

Congress acknowledges:

A move by a number of Institutes of Technology to work together to establish Technological Universities on a regional basis.

Congress welcomes:

Efforts by the Department of Education and Skills to plan for Higher Education provision in Ireland over the next two decades.

Congress stresses:

The importance of engagement with appropriate student representative organizations throughout the implementation process.

Congress mandates:

All appropriate members of Officer Board to meet and discuss the impact of Technological University status with the Member Organisations involved in each potential Technological University on a case by case basis and to make representations on their behalf, at a national level. This mandate shall be fulfilled as required, and shall be presented for review on its expiration.

 

12 AA 2         ESTABLISHMENT OF AGENCY FOR STUDENT TRAINING IN QA

Congress notes:

That SPARQS was created in 2003 to support the greater engagement of students in the management of quality assurance and enhancement in Scotland’s Colleges and Higher Education Institutions. SPARQS is hosted by NUS Scotland and is funded by the Scottish Funding Council for Further and Higher Education.

Congress further notes:

The advancement of student participation in the QA process in Scotland since the establishment of SPARQS.

Congress notes with regret:

That little training is provided to students who are involved in the QA process in Ireland.

Congress welcomes:

The amalgamation of HETAC, FETAC, NQAI and IUQB into QQAI.

Congress mandates:

The President and the Vice-President for Academic Affairs and QA to attempt to secure funding and lobby for the establishment of an agency similar to SPARQS to be managed by USI.

This mandate shall expire after a period of 3 years if it is not re-approved by Congress.

 

12 AA 3         GRANT CAMPAIGN

Congress notes:

That for the past several years USI’s officers have carried out a campaign of information evenings across the country in the months of late summer for those applying for the student grant.

Congress also notes:

That this has been a valuable service to society generally and to our members.

Congress also notes:

That a single governmental agency would be able to commit significantly more human and financial resources to such a campaign than this Union, and that with the creation of the single national grants awarding agency that such an agency now exists.

Congress therefore mandates:

The Vice President for Academic Affairs and Quality Assurance, Vice President for the

Southern Region and the Vice President for the Border, Midlands and Western Region to work with the above named agency toward jointly provisioning the grant awareness and information campaign in the future.  The first of these recurring campaigns shall be completed by October 2012.

 

12 AA 4        TECHNOLOGICAL UNIVERSITIES

Congress recognises:

That many Institutes of Technology are aiming to become Technological Universities (TU) in coming years.

Congress further recognises:

That should the number of Institutes of Technology which have currently declared their intention to seek TU status actually achieve that status, this would create a situation where almost every major provider of third-level education in Ireland would be some form of university.

Congress notes:

That the international recognition of all of our qualifications is vital in ensuring our graduates have a decent chance of employment, regardless of whether those qualifications are from a University, an Institute of Technology, or any other provider of third-level education.

Congress mandates the USI Officerboard:

To ensure that the National Council and the Member Organisations in general are kept fully informed of developments regarding the possible re-designation of Institutes of Technology as Technological Universities over the next three years

To lobby the Government over the next three years to maintain the current criteria for the re-designation of an Institute of Technology as a Technological University, and to include this issue in future Lobby of the Oireachtas documents.

12 AA 5         CONTINUED IMPROVEMENTS TO THE LECTURING STANDARDS IN HEI’S

Congress notes: 

The importance of continued monitoring of the teaching standards of 3rd level courses, which contribute to the degree awarding abilities of all HEIs.

Congress further notes: 

The importance of lectures and tutors/mentors in students’ time in 3rd and 4th level education.

Congress notes with concern: 

That any short comings in lecturers’ attempts to continually develop their teaching methodology and knowledge in their chosen area will have seriously detrimental effects on their ability to assist their students’ learning.

Congress further notes with concern:

That, currently, no legislation exists which governs the need for lecturers to develop their teaching methodology and knowledge in their chosen area.

Congress mandates:

The USI President, following consultation with any representative union with 3rd level lecturing staff among their membership, to lobby the HEA to introduce and implement criteria based, Peer led Performance Review scheme to monitor the performances of lectures on an annual or biennial basis. Independent student feedback is to be an integral element of these criteria. This mandate should be fulfilled by June 2013.

Congress further mandates:

That the President lobby the HEA to establish a working group to form the framework and criteria for this performance review scheme, which includes, but is not limited to, representatives for students, lecturing staff and a national 3rd level Quality Assurance organisation. This mandate should be fulfilled by June 2013.

 

12 AA 6         RE-INSTITUTION OF GAELTACHT GRANT FOR TEACHERS

Congress notes:

The benefit that time in the Gaeltacht affords trainee teachers

Congress notes with concern:

Steps taken by government to remove the grant for teaching students to go to the Gaeltacht as part of their course.

Congress mandates:

The Vice-President for Academic affairs and Quality Assurance and the Vice-President for the Irish Language to lobby the department, and minister for education to reverse the decision to remove the grant, in order to ensure that trainee teachers may continue to attend the Gaeltacht during their course.

 

12 AA 7         GRANT REFORM (ESTRANGED PARENTS)

Congress applauds:

That the Student Support Act 2011 has come in to effect and that from summer 2012 the administration of the student grant scheme will be  significantly more streamlined, and the application process more clear and user friendly for those applying.

Congress notes:

That for those whose parents are informally separated, or who have no tangible connection to one or both parents for whatever reason, and who are under the age of 23 applying for a grant remains impossibly burdensome due to the onerous documentary evidence obligation on the applicant.

 

Congress mandates:

The Vice President for Academic Affairs and Quality Assurance to propose an alternative method of proving independence for adoption by National Council before the end of December 2012.

And

That a detailed submission be made by the Vice President for Academic Affairs and Quality Assurance and the President to government on this subject before April 2013.

 

12 AA 8         MERGING OF HIGHER EDUCATION INSTITUTIONS

Congress notes:

That discussions for regional clustering and merging of Higher Education institutions are currently on going.

Congress recognises:

The positive developments these institutions will bring to research, teaching & learning and provision of facilities and services.

Congress notes with concern: 

That the individual nature of an institution’s ethos, identity and traditions may be lost in the creation of mergers and amalgamation of institutions.

Congress mandates:

Officer Board to keep an institution’s ethos in mind when in discussion with the HEA and all relevant stakeholders to ensure that that they are protected and to report back to National Council and the MOs who will be affected.  The mandate shall lapse after three years from being passed at congress as discussions will be on going with regard to the future of Higher Education in Ireland.

 

12 AA 9         IMPLEMENTATION OF THE HEA REPORT FROM THE WORKING GROUP ON STUDENT CONTRIBUTION

Congress commends:

The work done by the group and the report it has compiled.

Congress notes:

The financial strain that student services are facing across the country, even with the increased contribution charge by students.

 

Congress notes with concern:

Varying practices between HEIs, which directly contradict the General Principles outlined in the report, much to the detriment of student services and students’ unions alike.

Congress mandates:

That all USI Vice Presidents and President, where relevant, lobby the HEA to ensure that all HEIs adopt the general principles and recommendations of the report. By arranging meetings with the relevant senior HEA officials before the end of December 2012.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

11 ED 2         THE HUNT REPORT

REAPPROVED 2015

Congress notes:

The publication of the National Strategy for Higher Education to 2030 known as the Hunt Report.

Congress believes:

That all stakeholders, particularly students, will benefit from having clear, defined long term goads for the sector.

Congress recognises:

The impact that this Report may have on the education sector as a whole.

Congress mandates the President and the Education Officer:

To ensure that there is student representation at all levels of where authority to implement recommendations of the Hunt Report lies.

 

11 ED 3         STUDENT CONTRIBUTION CHARGE

REAPPROVED 2015

Congress notes:

The scrapping of the Registration Fee and its replacement with the Student Contribution Charge.

Congress further notes:

That these increases will make attending Higher Education even more difficult than was previously the case.

Congress recognises:

That front loading of the Student Contribution Charge and other associated costs with attending Higher Education into the first half of the first semester further strains the budgets of students and their families.

Congress mandates the Education Officer:

To campaign to ensure that all colleges operate an instalment plan whereby students can pay the Student Contribution Charge in smaller lump sums spread throughout the Academic Year.

 

11 ED 4         SUPPORT FUNDS FOR PART-TIME STUDENTS

REAPPROVED 2015

Congress notes:

That a number of support funds including the Fund for Student with Disabilities, the Student Assistance Fund and the Maintenance Grant are only available for students studying on a full-time basis in recognised Higher Education Institutes.

Congress further notes:

That part-time students are not able to avail of the “free-fees” scheme.

Congress mandates the Education Officer, Welfare Officer and Equality Officer:

To campaign and lobby for support funds and the free fees scheme to be extended to include part-time students.

 

11 ED 5         ECTS HARMONISATION

REAPPROVED 2015

Congress notes:

Irelands increasing compliance with the Bologna Process.

Congress further notes:

That the Bologna process has improved the level of transferability and comparability of awards across the European Higher Education Area.

Congress recognises:

That much work remains to be done to implement harmonisation of hours on work required to earn an ECTS credit.

Congress mandates the Education Officer:

To investigate the situation on a national and local level and ascertain trends in compliance by college and by broad subject area and then to lobby institutions to correct shortfalls and excesses that are present.

11 ED 6         EXAM REGULATIONS

REAPPROVED 2015

Congress notes:

That the regulations concerning progression, transfer and quality of awards subsequent to students having failed an exam in an award year differ between institutions.

 

Congress believes:

That this situation creates inequalities given that students who get the same results in different institutions will achieve different outcome which is contrary to national and international guidelines.

Congress mandates the Education Officer:

To investigate each institution, prepare and submit a report to National Council detailing which Colleges are deviating from national and international guidelines.

 

11 ED 8         PUBLIC SECTOR MORATORIUM

REAPPROVED 2015

Congress believes:

That the Public Sector Moratorium was a blunt tool used to reduce public sector staffing numbers that has ended up impacting frontline education and health services unnecessarily.

Congress also believes:

That the Moratorium is forcing many Irish graduates, that would normally be streamed into public service, to emigrate to countries like Australia, Canada and the UK.

Congress notes:

USI’s policies on graduate unemployment, and the consistent campaign to create jobs for graduates in Ireland

Congress mandates the President and Officer board:

To call for and work towards a re-negotiation of the Public Sector Moratorium to improve prospects for employment for Irish graduates with the newly formed Government.

 

11 ED 9         GRADUATE UNEMPLOYMENT

REAPPROVED 2015

Congress notes:

That Ireland is facing a major jobs and competitiveness crisis.

Congress further notes:

That over 150,000 people will emigrate from Ireland by 2015, a vast majority of which will be graduates. This figure is the equivalent of every graduate Ireland produces over the next five years leaving the country.

Congress believes:

That with almost 100,000 Irish people under the age of 25 on the live register it is imperative

that all political parties recognise the severity of the jobs crisis among younger people and make the issue of graduate unemployment a main priority going forward.

Congress mandates the Deputy President, Education Officer and Area Officers:

To continue working on tackling graduate unemployment by lobbying for the implementation of measures recommended in USI’s ‘Reigniting the Smart Economy’.

Congress therefore adopts:

The measures proposed in ‘Reigniting the Smart Economy’ as USI policy.

Congress further mandates:

The Deputy President, Education Officer and Area Officers to put pressure on the government to produce a comprehensive long-term strategy to tackle graduate unemployment.

 

11 ED 10       EFFECT OF RECESSION

REAPPROVED 2015

Congress notes:

There is a large, if relatively unknown body, of economic and social research statistics on the effects of the recession on businesses, families etc.

Congress also notes:

That in talking about how students, and the families that they are increasingly reliant on, have been affected, it is difficult to show comprehensively how the recession has impacted students’ finances along with their family finances.

Congress mandates Officer Board:

To commission/compile an impact assessment report on how the recession has affect student finances, and also how it has affected families supporting students.

Congress recommends:

That this report should take into consideration: public sector/private sector representation in supporting families and the recessionary impact on them, personal and national debt analysis and how over indebtedness affects people/families, geographic analysis of recessionary impact to aid regional COs, drop in student employment, and if possible the significant drop in student/family expenditure.

 

11 ED 12       CONTINUED SUPPORT FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF GRANGEGORMAN CAMPUS

REAPPROVED 2015

Congress notes:

That the development of the Grangegorman Campus is an essential cornerstone of Higher Education Strategy in Ireland, and that it will be of immeasurable benefit to the local community, and Ireland.

Congress further notes:

That DIT caters for approximately eleven percent of all Higher Education activity nationally.

Congress applauds:

The Government’s decision to approve the development, and the support that is currently present across the political parties.

Congress mandates the President, and Officer Board:

To lobby the Government and the HEA to continue to support the project, in conjunction with the DIT Students’ Union.

11 ED 17       FUNDING FOR MATURE STUDENTS

REAPPROVED 2015

Congress notes:

That in the past two years, there have been significant changes in rates and eligibility for mature students in relation to the Maintenance Grant, which have resulted in some students suffering a significant drop in funding.

Congress notes:

That the automatic entitlement of mature students to the non-adjacent rate of the Maintenance Grant had been based on higher than average living costs, and this has now been removed.

Congress mandates the Equality Officer and the Education Officer:

To compose a policy document outlining a new method of support funding for mature students and non-mature students which will be assessed on a more individual basis to account for matters such as, but not limited to, the number and age of dependents and travel costs associated with dependents in pre-school, first-level or second level education etc.

11 ED 18       MATHEMATICS BONUS POINTS

REAPPROVED 2015

Congress condemns:

The decision by many higher education institutions in the past year to agree to a re-introduction of bonus points for higher level mathematics in the leaving certificate regardless of course of entry to higher education.

Congress notes:

The historical legacy of failure of the third-level sector in solving second-level problems by

imposing admissions requirements on second-level students without engaging in wide-ranging consultations on curriculum reform.

Congress mandates the Education Officer:

To prepare a policy document in accordance with this and previous national council motions on the subject and to lobby for the reversal of the decision to offer bonus points by the institutions concerned.

 

11 ED 19       MAINTENANCE GRANTS 2

REAPPROVED 2015

Congress notes:

The current situation of higher education maintenance grants criteria is firstly based on what education institution they attend.

Congress believes:

That third level education should be an open playing field for students and grants should be made available to students based on each individual circumstance on meeting the required criteria rather than on what education institution they attend.

Congress further notes:

That there should be equality and accessibility to education to everyone, for further progressing the opportunities available to students and that that the current grants system is inequitable, significantly unfair and is a barrier to those trying to attend third-level education.

Congress also believes:

That USI should be in a position to fight for equitable access to education grants in every circumstance.

Congress therefore mandates:

The President, Deputy President, Education Officer and the rest of Officer Board

To take action in lobbying the Minister for Education and Skills, pursuant to Section 8 of the Student Support Act 2011, to provide that private colleges such as Griffith College are included in the Higher Education Grant Scheme.

 

11 ED 20       PRIVATE SCHOOLS

REAPPROVED 2015

Congress recognises:

That we as a student movement must strive for real equality and equal opportunities at all levels in the Irish education system.  We also recognise that whether or not a child will make it to third-level education is often determined many years before that child sits the Leaving Certificate.

Congress further recognises:

That many potential college students have not made it to third-level because they come from areas of socio-economic disadvantage, and thus cannot afford private schooling, or because the public schools in their areas are not adequate.

Congress notes:

The growth of grind schools and private secondary schools in Ireland in the past two decades, and that this growth of the private school sector has led to elitism among students at second-level and beyond, and has also resulted in many good public schools struggling to fill places and stay open.

Congress further notes:

That students attending private schools have access to an education that is partly publicly-funded, but which is only accessible to those who can afford it.  This gives them a significant advantage over public school students in the CAO race for places in third-level courses.

Congress mandates USI Officer Board:

To campaign for the removing of state funding for private primary and secondary schools, and for any monies saved to be re-invested in the wider, publicly-funded and publicly-accessible education system including primary, secondary and third level education.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10 ED 4         INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS

REAPPROVED 2015

Congress notes:

That every year a substantial number of International Students travel to Ireland to study within our higher education system.

Congress recognizes:

That these International students can pay large sums of money, on average €12,000 per year to study in our 3rd level institutions.

Congress further recognizes:

That there have been a number of issues with regards to these students arriving in Ireland with regards to Irish Customs.

Congress mandates:

The President to work on behalf of the International students to put in place an International Student Charter detailing student rights and responsibilities in the third level CO’s where they are studying. By the development of the framework each IoT and University would become responsible for the treatment of International Students when travelling to Ireland.

 

10 ED 5         LEGAL PROFESSION

REAPPROVED 2015

Congress notes:

That to enter the legal profession in Ireland, one must overcome many financial and social obstacles.

Congress further notes:

That these obstacles mean that the majority undertaking a career in law are those who can afford it and who have pre-existing ties to the legal profession

Congress notes with concern:                                                                                                                                  

That such obstacles include

Exceptionally high costs for postgraduate study in the King’s Inns, with a one year degree course costing €12,000. This course is also run during the day (as opposed to the evening diploma course) so people cannot work full time simultaneously.

Barristers in their first year of practice must be able to afford to work for free during their year’s apprenticeship, also known as ‘devilling’. The apprenticeship must also take place in Dublin, thus increasing costs for candidates even further if forced to live away from home.

 

Congress believes:

That while the abolition of third level fees has delivered good progress in increasing access to education for people of all social backgrounds, more must be done to ensure that these artificial barriers to real educational equality of opportunity in certain professions are removed.

Congress affirms its belief that:

No profession should be the sole preserve of the wealthy and socially connected.

Congress mandates:

The President and the Education officer to give a presentation to the Joint Oireachtas committee on Education and Science on access to the legal system

The President and Deputy to campaign and lobby for the extension of the higher education grants scheme to those taking barrister and solicitor courses.

 

10 ED 7         STUDENT FUNDING

REAPPROVED 2015

Congress notes:

That with the economy struggling, students need all the help they can get in securing funding in the form of grants, scholarships and other non-traditional forms of supports for college degrees.

Congress believes:

That USI needs to lobby the Department of Education to compile a list of all forms of funding for undergraduate and postgraduate degrees that is available to students in every third-level institute in the country.

Congress notes:

That the studentfinance.ie website is a great resource for students and prospective students, and that it should be utilised more to help people looking for financial information before going to college.

Congress mandates:

The Education Officer to lobby the Department of Education to publicise the aforementioned list of funding available on the studentfinance.ie website.

 

10 ED 8         BTEA CAMPAIGN

REAPPROVED 2015

Congress notes:

That the removal of the entitlement of Back to Education students to a maintenance grant will cost unemployed mature students in the region of €7,000 a year in expected income.

Congress firmly believes:

That the decision to bring in this measure was wrong, unfair, and is not in the interests of this country, either financially or socially.

Congress notes:

That for many people trying to go back to education, the Budget cuts represent a loss of over 25% in expected income Union of Students in Ireland Annual Congress 2010 Comhdhail Bhliaintuil Aontas na Mac Leinn in Eirinn 2010 – 24 – – 24 –

Congress mandates:

The Education Officer to organise a sustained campaign to reverse this decision before the Department of Education & Science finalises it‟s implementation over the summer.

 

10 ED 9         MEETING FEEDBACK

REAPPROVED 2015

Congress notes:

That USI, as the National Union representing most students studying at third-level colleges in Ireland, holds seats on all the bodies charged with policy, funding quality assurance and regulation of the third level sector, such as the HEA and NQAI and others.

Congress notes with concern:

The lack of institutional memory in USI with regard to issues discussed at these meeting.

Congress further notes:

The importance of this high-level involvement for the constituent members of USI who pay an annual affiliation fee to USI.

Congress therefore mandates: 

The President and Education Officer to create effective briefing and reporting communication channels, pre and post these meetings which USI attends (Pre meeting to consist of a notification of agenda items, and what stance USI plans to take on each, and an aide memoir post meeting of the discussion of each topic, what USI represented to the meeting and what the outcomes was.) on behalf of CO‟s, and where matters relevant to the COs are decided upon.

10 ED 11       APPRENTICES

REAPPPROVED 2015

Congress notes:

That over the past number of years the increase within the trades industry with regards to Ireland.

Congress further notes:

That with the economic downturn many of these apprentices have been left with no job and in some cases incomplete qualifications.

Congress recognises:

The need to provide further education opportunities in the face of the ever-changing employment landscape of Ireland.

Congress mandates:

The President and the Education Officer to lobby the Department of Education and the Higher Education Authority to clearly state, in a national framework, the eligibility of qualified apprentices to progress into relevant degree courses.

 

10 ED 12       BUDGETS

REAPPROVED 2015

Congress notes:

That the current volatile economic climate, each Budget is likely to have significant impact on students.

Congress further notes:

That the fear and worry caused by budgets may cause avoidable harm to the welfare to Students.

Congress therefore mandates:

The USI Education Officer, as soon as possible subsequent to the delivery each budget, to the write an explanatory memorandum of the impacts of the budget on student and communicate it to all CO’s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

09 ED 1         TUITION FEES

REAPPROVED 2015

Congress notes:

That it has long been a core principle of the student movement that education should be accessible to all people.

Congress recognises:

That tuition fees constitute a serious barrier to entry into third level education.

Congress strongly believes:

That education is a public and social good, which benefits not only the individual but the wider society. It should therefore be paid through progressive taxation like all public services. Investing in education is one of the most important investments we can make; not only does having an educated population strengthen our economy, but graduates pay on average 70% more in tax and have thus directly repaid the cost of their degree through taxation within ten years. Importantly, providing a college education to all is an important factor in creating a fair and more democratic society with equal opportunity for all.

Congress further notes:

That the OECD’s “education at a glance 2008” lists Ireland at the top of selected industrialised countries for “providing the most equitable access to higher education”. This shows that the abolition of fees has had a significant impact on increasing equity of access, despite successive governments’ failure to follow up the success of free fees with a corresponding commitment to educational equality across the board.

Congress further notes:

That in two decades Ireland has seen an increase in access to third level education from 20% to 55%, and that a large factor in this has been the abolition of third level fees.

Congress believes:

That the economic crisis means that now, more than ever Ireland must make education accessible to all, in order to equip our people with the skills and knowledge that will help them innovate, create new jobs and attract foreign investment. Ireland’s future depends on investing in its people.

Congress hereby reaffirms:

Its commitment to an equal, fair and accessible education system, and to the complete abolition of tuition fees, including the registration fee.

Congress notes:

The huge campaigns in 2002/03 and 2008/09 run by USI to oppose tuition fees.

 

Congress mandates:

USI officer board to redouble its efforts to fight fees in any guise and to continue to place this issue at the centre of its lobbying and campaigning efforts.

Congress calls for:

A commitment by the government to fund third level education and all essential services through progressive taxation, where those on higher incomes pay the most.

Congress urges:

All local students’ unions to recognise their central role in the national campaign against fees, and to make fees their priority as students’ union representatives and as members of the national union. The USI is not officer board – it is all members. Therefore all members are responsible for engaging with the campaign.

 

09 ED 2         STUDENT LOANS/GRADUATE TAX

REAPPROVED 2015

Congress notes:

That the principle that education should be accessible to all people, has always been a core value of the student movement.

Congress strongly believes:

That education is a public and social good, which benefits not only the individual but the wider society. It should therefore be paid through progressive taxation like all public services. Investing in education is one of the most important investments we can make; not only does having an educated population strengthen our economy, but graduates pay on average 70% more in tax and have thus directly repaid the cost of their degree through taxation within ten years. Providing education to all citizens equally is fundamental principle for any fair society.

Congress notes:

The 2005 study in the UK by Professor Claire Callender and Jonathan Jackson that shows that for those on lower or middle income backgrounds in the UK, the fear of debt is a significant barrier to entry to third level education in the UK. This is a result of the student loans system in the UK.

Congress also notes:

The research by Professor Kathleen Lynch of UCD’s equality studies centre on the Australian HECS system that shows the detrimental impact that a deferred loans system can have on equity of access to third level and on increasing student impoverishment.

Congress notes:

That Australia’s education minister Julia Gillard has described the HECS student loans system as “at best complex and at worst anomalous, inconsistent and irrational”.

Congress also notes:

That the fairest and most egalitarian way of paying for higher education is through a progressive taxation system.

Congress condemns:

The suggestions by minister for education Batt O’Keeffe that an Australian-style student loans system might be introduced in Ireland, at the same time as the Australian government itself is recognising that the system doesn’t work.

Congress also opposes:

The suggestions by some politicians for a graduate tax. Graduates already pay 70% more in tax than non-graduates, therefore a graduation tax is not necessary nor is it fair.

Congress mandates:

USI officer board to continue to oppose fees in any guise, including student loans and a graduate taxation system.

Congress calls for:

Investment through progressive taxation in a fair, equitable education system from primary to third level, whereby those on higher incomes pay higher taxes which funds all essential services. This is an investment in strengthening our economy as well as creating fairness in our society.

 

09 ED 11       BOLOGNA PROCESS

REAPPROVED 2015

Congress notes:

That the bologna process has, since its inception in 1999, become one of the most important and dominant themes in further and higher education in Europe with significant reforms being introduced throughout Europe and here in Ireland as a result of the bologna process.

Congress further notes:

That the reforms introduced as part of the bologna process have seen a dramatic transformation in further and higher education, much of which has been positive.

Congress recognises:

That these reforms have, however, also introduced considerable uncertainty into further and higher education and there is a need to ensure that as part of the bologna process, the quality of education is not undermined.

Congress welcomes:

That the union of students in Ireland has been involved at both a national and European level in the formation and development of policy in the key areas of the bologna process.

Congress regrets:

That on an issue as critical as the bologna process, which is now entering second decade, USI does not have official, formalised policy on the bologna process.

Congress believes:

That it is imperative that the national students’ union develop policy on an issue that is having and will have a profound impact on its membership.

Congress further mandates:

USI to adopt the following principles on the Bologna process to be implemented by the president and the education officer

Bologna process (general principles)

USI welcomes the creation of the bologna process and the importance of education and educational co-operation in the development and strengthening of stable, peaceful and democratic societies.

The bologna process should be based on creating opportunities for mobility within higher education in Europe and should not be focused on purely developing a higher education system that suits the needs of enterprise and employers

USI strongly believes that the over-arching goal of the bologna process should be to create a student-centred learning environment that is flexible, transparent, accessible to all and encourages the development of lifelong learning.

Future development of the bologna process must be driven through consultation and cooperation with all relevant stakeholders, which must include student representatives.

The bologna process should aim for significant and continuous improvement in the standard of education provided to students and that students are full and complete partners within institutions and at sectoral, national and European levels. Education must also be transparent with embedded and appropriate QA mechanisms focused on improving standards and academic provision.

Social dimension.

Participation in further and higher education must be widened and the demographic of these sectors should reflect the diversity of the population of the signatory countries to the bologna process.

Further and higher education is a public good and should primarily be publicly funded.

USI is opposed to any and all attempts to privatise further and higher education.

USI strongly welcomes the commitment enshrined in the bologna process to student services and will work with all relevant stakeholders to ensure that student services are adequately resourced and improved in line with the needs of students.

All obstacles to participation further and higher education should be removed and

USI will campaign strongly on this.

The social dimension of the bologna process must continue to be one of the central action lines of the bologna process.

Mobility

Increased opportunities for student and staff mobility as a result of the bologna process is to be welcomed and contributes positively to the academic and personal development of students.

There should be a mobility target of 20% of the student population by 2020. The participative equity within this 20% must be improved and institutions must create measures to ensure that credits gained during mobility are recognised on return.

A central mobility fund should be created and contributed to by EHEA countries and financed according to the principle of public financing.

USI believes that higher education institutions should provide extensive language tuition to students to encourage and promote mobility.

The USI education officer and the USI equality officer shall campaign and lobby for the simplification of visa and work permit rules and procedures to allow for greater mobility and to prevent mobile students being subject to undue stress, difficulties and discrimination.

 

Qualifications frameworks and recognition

USI supports the adoption and implementation of the ECTS credit system whereby each academic year is comprised of 60 ECTS with each module being in multiples of 5 ECTS (e.g. 5, 10, 15 etc.). An ECTS credit should represent 20 – 25 hrs of student input including, but not limited to, lectures, assignments, self-directed learning, study and practical classes and placements.

USI welcomes and supports the development of modularisation where a module represents a block of teaching and learning with a combination of linked modules constituting a programme.

Semesterisation, whereby the academic year is comprised of two equal length teaching terms, is welcomed by USI. However, there should not be a nationally standardised set of term dates.

USI welcomes the introduction of learning outcomes, defined as “learning outcomes are statements of what a student is expected to know, understand and/or be able to demonstrate after completion of a process of learning”. All modules, subjects and programmes must be designed around learning outcomes which are regularly quality assessed to ensure they are appropriate and fir for purpose. Learning outcomes must be used to create a student-centred learning environment and may not be used to create a b0ox-ticking environment.

 

USI continues to support the national framework of qualifications and shall campaign to ensure that learning outcomes align with the knowledge, skills and competencies associated with the relevant level of the NFQ.

All qualifications in further and higher education should be comparable and readable so that a student’s qualifications can be mapped on to both the European qualifications framework and the qualifications framework of all countries in the bologna process with ease. The comparability should be verified for the student by the relevant authority (such as ENIC-NARIC) free of charge.

The USI education officer shall run a campaign, in conjunction with constituent organisations, to raise awareness of the NFQ and to ensure that no student is disadvantaged by its operation.

 

USI Bologna Process Campaign

USI reaffirms that the bologna process is of extreme importance to the education that students will receive.

USI shall undertake all necessary effort, under the direction of the USI education officer, to assist constituent organisations in ensuring the proper implementation of all bologna process related reforms.

USI will promote awareness of the bologna process and of related reforms and opportunities to students through constituent organisations.

USI will work with all relevant stakeholders sectorally, nationally and internationally to ensure adequate student representation and that the bologna process develops in lines with the above principles.

The USI education officer will develop and regularly update a USI strategy on the Bologna process.

 

09 ED 13       EQUITY OF ACCESS

REAPPROVED 2015

Congress notes:

That the introduction of the ‘free fees’ initiative was designed to widen access to further and higher education for those from traditionally under-represented backgrounds.

Congress recognises:

That while much progress has been made, with an overall participation rate of 55%, there are still a number of socio-economic and non-traditional backgrounds which do not participate in further and higher education at the level of other groups.

 

 

Congress welcomes:

Recent moves to broaden the participation rate, in particular the creation of the national office for the equity of access to higher education and the publication of the national plan for equity of access to higher education 2008 – 2013.

Congress reaffirms:

That one of the fundamental principles of the union is that it strives for an education and training system open to all, irrespective of any  consideration, including consideration of national origin, ethnic  background, age, ability, sex, sexuality, creed, political beliefs or economic circumstances, so that each individual can realise their full potential.

Congress believes:

That in order to uphold and defend this principle, USI must have a co-ordinated policy on equity of access and encouraging the widening of participation in further and higher education.

Congress mandates:

That USI adopts the following principles as its policy on equity of access to further and higher education to be implemented by officer board:

Equity of Access (General Principles)

  • USI shall campaign for an education and training system open and accessible to all.
  • All sectors of society should have equal opportunity to participate in further and higher education.
  • Further and higher education institutions should take all steps necessary to encourage and broaden participation
  • USI shall build links and work with all relevant stakeholders and organisations to widen the participation rate and address all obstacles that may prevent individuals from accessing further and higher education
  • The USI education officer shall develop and regularly update a USI strategy for equity of access to further and higher education
  • Targeted access funding and programmes must be expanded to ensure that all students who come from traditionally under-represented backgrounds are able to access further and higher education
  • All cuts to the student assistance fund, access offices or strategic innovation funded access projects shall be vigorously opposed by USI
  • All constituent organisations shall be supported by USI in promoting access within their own institution and in supporting the proper representation of access students through policy development, practice, promotion and partnership
  • The USI education officer and the USI deputy president/campaigns officer shall develop a public campaign promoting access to further and higher education, highlighting the current obstacles and building momentum to have these issues addressed.

 

09 ED 15       QUALITY ASSURANCE

REAPPROVED WITH DELETIONS 2015

Congress notes:

That quality assurance is an increasingly important issue facing higher and further education and one which USI needs a strong, coordinated campaign on.

Congress also notes:

That USI currently has eight existing motions relating to the area of quality assurance, each with different mandates and emphases.

Congress recognises:

That while each motion covers an important topic, it has created a disparate and sometimes sectoral approach to quality assurance that prohibits the development of a coherent campaign that could affect real change.

Congress also recognises:

That as USI represents students across all sectors of further and higher education, it must establish a common set of principles that will underpin and inform the organisation’s approach to quality assurance

Congress further mandates:

That USI adopts the following guidelines as its policy on quality assurance to be implemented by the education officer:

Aims and principles:

‘Quality assurance’ includes processes such as evaluation, accreditation and audit.

Students have a right to a high quality of education and to have that education reviewed and assessed regularly

The interests of students as well as employers and wider society are served through good quality higher education

Institutional autonomy, tempered by a recognition that this brings with it heavy responsibilities

The need for external quality assurance to be fit for its purpose and to place only an appropriate and necessary burden on institutions for the achievement of its objectives

Centrality of student involvement and representation at all levels of the quality assurance process

QA mechanisms should result in demonstrative improvements and that these improvements should be communicated back to students

All elements of the QA process shall be transparent and accountable

 

Quality Assurance of Modules, Programmes and Academic Units (General Principles)

Institutions should have policy, procedures and formal mechanisms for the quality assurance of their programmes and awards

Institutions should have a culture which recognises the importance of quality, and quality assurance, in their work

Each institution should have a central quality assurance office and/or committee that oversees the implementation of QA; this body shall have student representation

All panels formed to conduct a QA review should have student representation

All panels formed to conduct a QA review should have expert external representation

The quality of teaching staff shall be periodically reviewed as part of any programme, academic unit or institutional review and shall be commented on in the final report

The quality of education provided should be the central element in a review and each module and programme shall be assessed as to whether it is meeting its stated learning outcomes

The appropriateness of the stated learning outcomes as they support a high quality education should also be reviewed

Any and all QA reviews should also examine the quality of resources to support student learning including information systems, library resources and any and all other relevant services

Modules should be assessed annually with programmes and academic units reviewed on a cyclical basis with programmes reviewed at least once every three years and academic units at least once every five years

All quality assurance evaluations (module, programme, academic unit) should be made available online and all module and programme reviews be distributed to the students affected

Following each assessment an action plan and timeline to implement the recommendations should be produced and communicated to students

 

External Quality Review of Institutions (General Principles)

All institutions should be subject to review at least once every seven years

Panels should be chosen and overseen by the accreditation and/or awarding body

All panels should have student representation from a different institution with the pool of student representatives drawn up in consultation with USI

All panels formed to conduct an institutional review should have expert external representation

All panels should be fully independent and free of any influence or conflict of interest

Guidelines for institutional reviews should be drawn up by the accreditation agency based on standardised best practice, such as ENQA’s ‘standards and guidelines’

As part of the review process the institution should produce a self-assessment report which should include progress on the recommendations of the previous report

The effectiveness and suitability of the institution’s internal QA policies, procedures and mechanisms should be assessed

The review should also examine the overall quality of the student experience, learning resources, information systems, institutional culture (academic and professional) and academic structure

All institutional review reports should be made available online and all module and programme reviews be distributed to the students affected

Following each assessment an action plan and timeline to implement the recommendations should be produced and communicated to students and the institution

 

Student Participation in Quality Assurance

Student participation in quality assurance is essential in order to ensure that any QA system is credible

The institution seeks to enshrine the value of student participation in quality assurance activities at module, programme, departmental, faculty and institutional level.

Each institution should produce a guide for new students and should aim to produce a quality assurance handbook

Student representation on all QA fora is essential

The student representation system should be designed to afford opportunities for student engagement in decision-making and quality management arrangements

 

USI Campaign on Quality Assurance

USI will campaign to ensure high quality teaching and QA standards throughout the further and higher education sectors in accordance with the policies above

USI shall produce, or work with any sectoral body producing, a handbook for students on quality assurance detailing the rights of students and the importance of student involvement in QA

The USI education officer shall assist constituent organisations in developing and implementing QA policies in accordance with the above principles

The USI education officer shall assist constituent organisations in designing and producing materials to inform students about QA procedures and their right to a high quality education.

 

09 ED 18       POST GRADUATE WORKING GROUP

REAPPROVED 2015

Congress notes:

That postgraduate students are often very limited in the amount of time they can dedicate towards ancillary roles in local unions and USI itself.

Congress further notes:

That the issues that postgraduates face are often hindered by a lack of continuity from officer to officer, and that issues that occur nationwide could be solved by an effective communication network between postgraduate officers.

Congress therefore mandates:

The education officer to create a database of postgraduate issues that arose, and how they were addressed at local and national levels. This database should be made available to all postgraduate and education officers nationwide.

Congress also mandates:

The education officer to ensure that contact details of all postgraduate officers are available in the database.

Congress further mandates:

The education officer to organize meetings with the postgraduate officers, if necessary, to address their issues.

 

09 ED 25       POSTGRADUATE WORK PLACEMENTS

REAPPROVED 2015

Congress notes:

The cost incurred by students entering into work placement positions. Often these placements take on the form of free labour for employers.

Congress believes:

That all students entering into work placements should receive payment for the duration of the placement.

Congress mandates the officer board:

To campaign for payment for these types of placement.

 

09 ED 28       POSTGRADUATE CAMPAIGN

REAPPROVED 2015

Congress notes:

The growing population of postgraduate students within USI

Congress regrets:

That many postgraduate students feel disconnected from USI

Congress therefore mandates:

The education officer to organise a promotion campaign within the first semester of each year, to highlight the success and the services of USI to postgraduate students specifically