The Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI), which represents 4,500 third level academic staff among its 20,000 membership, has said that any measures to alleviate the huge financial burden of higher education on students and their families must be implemented as a matter of urgency.
The union has highlighted the shamefully high ratio of students to academic staff at third level and the negative effects that have resulted.
‘We welcome any measures that will help students and their families with the financial burden of third level education and which may alleviate the sector’s funding deficit, but there can be no delays in implementation,’ said TUI President Martin Marjoram today.
‘We will examine the technical paper which outlines how so exact a figure was calculated as the third level funding deficit and await details on how and when the significant negative effects of that deficit will be tackled. According to the most recent international indicators (OECD’s Education At A Glance, September 2021), the ratio of students to teaching staff at third level in Ireland increased from 20:1 to 23:1 from the previous year, a ratio vastly and unacceptably higher than the OECD and European averages of 15:1. This is a clear and shameful indictment of the political refusal to address the sector’s funding crisis, which has resulted in larger class sizes and less access to laboratories, equipment, materials, libraries and tutorials.
‘The TUI has always opposed income contingent loans as an unjust burden on students and as an ineffective funding mechanism – we are delighted to see them ruled out in today’s announcement. The so-called student contribution is more than 15 times higher than when first introduced and represents a significant burden for students and their families. A significant reduction in fees, as well as improvements to the Student Grant Scheme, are urgently required and we hope those positive features of today’s announcement will be accompanied by ambitious timelines.
‘TUI members operating in Second Level, Further and Higher Education see the impact of educational disadvantage in all sectors, and appropriate provision must be made available to deliver a level playing field to all students.
‘There are also serious ongoing issues around the precarious employment status of researchers and lecturers in the sector. Greater funding clarity will not be sufficient to address these problems while the outdated impositions of the Employment Control Framework in preventing permanent appointments must be removed.
‘The Technological University (TU)/Institute of Technology sector has a proud record of providing educational opportunities to groups under-represented in third level education, operating across undergraduate and post-graduate programmes, from apprenticeship to doctorate. The emphasis on regional provision and practical-based study in TUs/IoTs will clearly require targeted funding.
‘Most students only have one chance to progress through higher education, so meaningful action is urgently required ahead of the next academic year to ensure that today’s announcement is not a false dawn but will actually have the promised positive effects for the sector.
‘The TUI looks forward to engaging constructively and to participating on the Implementation and Review Group to be co-chaired by the Minister.’