Kevin Donoghue, USI President
The Union of Students in Ireland has criticised the programme for government for not prioritising higher education funding in Ireland and said the programme is a box-ticking exercise to satisfy policy makers and academics, but like the numerous reports and groups set up before to analyse the issues, there is no action being taken to rectify the problems.
USI said the programme for government, which was managed by Fine Gael and some independents, has repeated the mistakes of the last government – primarily, delaying decisions and, in turn, actions, relating to Higher Education funding.
“The biggest frustration around the programme for government is that it avoids the major issues for higher education funding such as recurrent funding, capital funding, maintenance, student numbers and accommodation.” Kevin Donoghue, USI President, said. “This is the second consecutive Fine Gael-led government and we still don’t have clarity on the plan for higher education in Ireland. There’s a lack of commitment and certainty around funding and it reflects how the government doesn’t prioritise higher education.
“The lack of vision, action and investment isn’t just counteractive and damaging for students. Institutions, staff unions, teachers unions, stakeholders and student bodies have a range of concerns that aren’t reformed or improved such as pay, working conditions, support and accommodation. The lack of funding and under-prioritisation in higher education has a ripple effect on the entire sector, not just on students.”
Donoghue said the programme for government had thorough and detailed plans for early childhood, primary and secondary education development and funding, but very little for higher education in comparison.
While the programme for government said they will increase financial supports for post graduate students with a particular focus on those from low income households, it doesn’t say by how much or when these changes will come into effect. USI said they welcome any extra support for post graduate students as postgraduate courses expand skill base, further knowledge and can greatly improve a young person’s career prospects.
USI said the government is very good at setting up parties to review findings of reports but does very little to implement the suggested changes. Donoghue said while talking about the funding crisis in Higher Education highlights the serious issues, action needs to be taken as a matter of urgency to fix the problem.
“These groups frequently act as a can kicking exercise with very little coming out of them in terms of action.” Donoghue said. “We have a problem with funding right now. That problem was created by repeated cuts in state funding. It doesn’t take a report or a working group to figure out that the state needs to put that funding back in.”