The Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) has warned that a significant projected increase in the number of students in the country’s third level institutions will greatly worsen the current crisis in the sector unless urgent action is taken.
TUI represents 4,000 members in Institutes of Technology and Technological Universities.
The Union’s Annual Congress takes place in Killarney next week.
Speaking today, TUI President Seamus Lahart said:
‘Increased participation at third level should be something to be celebrated, but the abject failure of successive Governments to address the sector’s funding crisis make the latest projections a ticking timebomb for a sector that has already been ravaged by cutbacks.
The Department of Education and Skills’ latest figures show that full-time student numbers at third level could grow by 54,000 or almost 30% by 2029, but the sector’s capacity has already been hacked back to the bare bones by an era of severe cutbacks.
Since 2008, the Institute of Technology/Technological University sector has suffered significant cuts to funding which have had a severely damaging effect on both the educational experience of students and the working conditions of academic staff.
The time that lecturing staff can provide to students has come under immense pressure and there is now significantly less opportunity available to interact with students on an individual basis or in smaller groups.’
Most vulnerable students suffering
‘In such a situation, those students who might struggle with aspects of their course lose out and in too many cases drop-out before completion of their course. Gallingly for lecturers, such opportunity to interact has been a major strength of the Institute sector, which benefits students from diverse social and educational backgrounds. Other deficits regularly cited by academic staff as a result of funding cuts include:
- Larger class sizes
- Cuts to class contact hours of courses
- Cuts to budgets for equipment and laboratory materials
- Cuts to budgets for routine maintenance of facilities
- Cuts to tutorial and other supports
- Cuts to library facilities
- Less access to laboratories
- Limited maintenance of facilities and equipment
The quality of service is only being sustained by conscientious lecturers and other staff going above and beyond the call of duty.
Of course, the development of new courses, the updating of existing courses and the strengthening of research capacity are also severely hindered by cutbacks.’
‘TUI has engaged positively and actively with the development of Technological Universities, insisting on meaningful consultation with academic staff in all cases. However, we remain gravely concerned by the efforts to deliver this new mission on a shoestring. The new Technological Universities will be prevented from fulfilling their mission as laid out in legislation without the provision of significant additional funding.’
A viable new funding model - Corporate levy
‘TUI has consistently made the case for a 1% levy to be applied to corporate profits to generate a dedicated fund for higher education. As the corporate sector derives considerable benefit from Ireland’s graduate pool, such a levy would be wholly appropriate. It would have raised an additional €656m for the sector in 2017, broadly in line with what authoritative analysis indicates as being required.’