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An online national student protest and socially distanced demonstrations on campuses across the island have been organisation today (March 24) by the Union of Students in Ireland to demand action from Government on the union’s Education For All campaign.

Students are calling for an end to the €3,000 Student Contribution Charge – the highest fee for an undergraduate degree in the EU and urgent action on student accommodation issues, as well as other areas blocking access to higher education in Ireland.

The island-wide day of action is also calling for an end to tuition fees in Northern Ireland, which are also among the highest in Europe and an overhaul of student supports for students who need them.

Almost 500 students have registered to take part in the USI virtual protest on Zoom at 1pm on today.

USI Vice President for Campaigns, Craig McHugh said: “Students are highlighting a range of issues through these actions today, from having the highest fees in the EU to paying some of the highest rents in Europe. We saw this year how reliant many higher education institutions have become on international students to fill gaps in funding. Students who come to this country to get an education should not be used as cash cows for colleges and universities to make ends meet.

“Investing in higher education is not just crucial for students, but it is also a great opportunity at this time. Higher education can act as an instigator for economic development and growth as we emerge from this crisis as for every €1 invested, another €4 is pumped back into the economy.”

Having lobbied for the Student Contribution Charge to be reduced in Budget 2021, USI is reiterating calls for this reduction and says it should be backdated and applied to the current academic year.

Other demands of the Education For All campaign include the creation of a publicly funded student accommodation building strategy and a charter for student tenant rights; a plan to address the crisis in Irish creative institutions; and an end to precarious working conditions for academic staff.

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