The President of the Union of Students in Ireland, Laura Harmon, has demanded colleges stop treating students as the soft route to more cash. She has rejected calls for an increase in the student contribution to higher education. As senior university officials meet at a conference in Dublin, Harmon has called for a cap on student fees and public investment in third level education, funding college and treating education as a public good.
Speaking at the event, Laura Harmon said:
“USI acknowledges that there is a significant underfunding of education. Universities constantly demand more money and resources, but for some reason would now rather it come at the expense of students, who are already experiencing recently unprecedented debt. Exactly at the point where the cost of living is rising at an alarming rate, well salaried college officials predictably argue that students should pay even more.
We understand that there is a crisis in higher education funding and that colleges need more investment – but we say that the job of the colleges is to fulfill the educational needs of Irish society first and international league tables a distant priority.
Research, teaching and the outcomes from them are equally important – and if we believe in a fair funding solution for higher education, that means increased investment from public funds. Teachers unions TUI and IFUT agree with us, and we’re supported in our plans by SIPTU.”
The Union of Students in Ireland argues that:
a) Fees for college in Ireland are already the second highest in Europe, despite the pretense that a system of ‘free fees’ is in place
b) Education is a public good requiring investment from general taxation to be sustained
c) The economic, employment and research impact of higher education is to the whole of the society, not just students and graduates – so it’s unfair to single out students to pay for massive investment.
d) Graduates tend to earn more over their lifetimes and therefore pay significantly more in tax.