TUI members in Institutes of Technology have voted by a margin of 92% on a turnout of 56% to engage in a campaign of industrial action in order to tackle a number of crisis issues in their sector. The sector has been subject to severe funding and staffing cuts at a time of a huge increase in student numbers.
Speaking this evening, TUI President Gerry Quinn said:
‘Academic staff in Institutes of Technology have made their position very clear in this ballot, and the next course of action will be decided by the union’s Executive Committee in the new year. In the meantime, we urge the Minister for Education and Skills to engage meaningfully with us on a number of critical issues.
In the absence of meaningful negotiations, strike action before the general election is inevitable.
The institute of technology sector is in crisis. Funding was cut by 35% (€190m) between 2008 and 2015. Over the same time period, student numbers rose by a staggering (32%) 21,411 while lecturer numbers actually fell by 9.5% (535). This has had a direct, detrimental effect on the quality of service to students and the working conditions of academics.
As a result of the fall in lecturer numbers and the steep rise in student numbers, lecturer workload has increased significantly and intolerably. Findings of a survey carried out by TUI (April 2015) show that lecturers are experiencing high levels of work related stress as a result of cutbacks and rationalisation measures in the sector.
While the increase in numbers participating in third level education is most welcome, the complete failure to provide appropriate funding and to maintain appropriate staffing levels is having a direct, negative impact on the student experience of higher education. For example, students are experiencing larger class sizes, less access to laboratories and libraries and sharp cuts to tutorials and other student supports.
The sector has made a vital contribution to social, economic and cultural development, yet this success is being dangerously undermined by short sighted and anti-educational austerity cuts.’
Key areas of concern include:
- The chronic underfunding of the Institutes of Technology (35% cut to sector- €190m – between 2008 and 2015)
- The critically low staffing levels at a time of a steep and ongoing increase in student numbers and the consequential unacceptable workload imposition on lecturers (21,411 or 32% rise in student numbers in sector between 2008 and 2015 / 535 or 9.5% fall in full-time academic staff numbers in sector between 2008 and 2015)
- The precarious employment status, income poverty and associated exploitation of many academic staff and
- The resulting, detrimental effect of these issues on the quality of service to students (larger class sizes, less access to laboratories, tutorials, student support etc)
Technological Universities Bill
On a separate issue to today’s ballot result, TUI notes the recent publication of the Technological Universities Bill. We remain gravely concerned by elements of it, not least the lack of adequate consultation and meaningful engagement with our members. The intention to effect such huge change without proper resourcing in an era of hugely damaging cutbacks to the sector is ill-advised. TUI will insist that mergers must not be forced, that if mergers are envisaged they must be appropriately funded and that the regional mission, which is central to the institute of technology ethos, must be explicitly retained. The quality of service to students and the educational, economic and cultural infrastructures of the regions must be maintained and enhanced.