The Irish Universities Association have launched a major new initiative to press for greater funding to be directed toward Higher Education in Ireland.
The campaign, launched under the title, ‘Save Our Spark’ is looking to bring further attention, and ultimately governmental action, toward the effects sweeping cuts to funding have had on the Irish third-level education system. Due to cutbacks following the financial crash in 2008, per student funding across third-level institutions has been halved.
A spark, the beginnings of something special. Our universities are where this spark burns brightest. Funding is key to protecting it but state funding per student has halved. Stand up for the Irish Spark & help secure essential state funding #SaveOurSpark pic.twitter.com/x7I8DLxEGe
— Irish Universities Assoc. (@IUAofficial) October 15, 2018
These funding cuts forced many universities to branch out and seek alternate sources of revenue to help redress the shortfall in funding. This led to a shift where many universities were forced to look at their students, not simply as the beneficiaries of the university, but as its unwitting financiers. Myriad aspects of the student experience were slowly, and increasingly, monetised to help universities balance the books. Costs for campus accommodation escalated, fees were introduced, or increased, for repeat exams. This has driven many students to breaking point, resulting in protests opposing escalations in accommodation costs and, in Trinity for example, against the introduction of extortionate costs for repeating exams.
The paltry resources available to Irish universities has not just detrimentally affected the experience of students but has also seen Irish universities begin to slide in international rankings. Last month, the Times Higher Education group released its rankings of the top 1000 universities globally, and it showed a the continuation of a worrying decline in Irish universities’ rankings.
The government has set an ambitious target for the Irish education system to be the best in Europe by 2026. However, this will prove impossible unless greater funding is directed toward Irish universities. Indeed, while last week’s budget announced some €200 million to be made available to Irish third-level institutions, through various initiatives over the next few years, it fell well below the figure of €600 million, as stated by the Cassells Report, so desperately needed to help improve Irish third-level institutions. This was protested by the USI on budget day last week.
THE RAINY DAY IS NOW. The Cassells report said we needed funding of €600m a year, the government announcing only €300m until 2021 today would be grossly inadequate. #EducationIs #Budget19 pic.twitter.com/Lpk1h2AJJj
— Michelle Byrne (@Michelle_Byrne_) October 9, 2018
All of Ireland’s current seven universities are involved in the initiative. A poll on the Save Our Spark website shows that 89% of those who’ve responded think there should be an increase in third-level funding.
Jim Miley, Director General of the IUA said:
If the higher education crisis is not addressed by Government urgently, then we risk a serious drop in quality or a shortfall in places for students in the future. For the first time ever, all seven Irish universities are coming together to demand urgent action on the funding crisis, as we need substantial investment to accommodate the extra students that are expected to enter the system over the next decade. We’re encouraging students, their parents and everyone with an interest in the future of the country to visit the Save Our Spark website, sign our petition and contact public representatives about the issue.