Today Deputy Mairéad Farrell, spokesperson for Further and Higher Education, said it was disappointing to learn that the latest student accommodation announcement seemed to be more hot air from Minister Harris.
Teachta Farrell was addressing the Education Committee where Junior Minister Niall Collins, standing in for Minister Harris, and the Department’s officials, had appeared.
Speaking after the committee Teachta Farrell said:
“Students were bitterly disappointed that there was no mention of student accommodation in Budget 2024 which showed once again that students’ calls for action on the crisis was once again falling on deaf ears in Government.
“A short time later Ministers Simon Harris and Darragh O’Brien announced an investment of €400 million in student accommodation this has once again proven to be a damp squib with this financing simply being borrowings which institutions will only be able to access at the earliest next year.
“The announcement took many in the sector by surprise. Particularly given that Technological Universities cannot currently borrow and many have long been calling for change in this area. Minister Collins confirmed to me today that this borrowing facility would only be accessible once a strategy has been completed which is not due to be completed until next year.
“Today I got to question the Department’s officials and Minister Collins in relation this, and it was another case of déjà vu.
“There’s little to no detail on how this supposed plan to deliver 2,000 beds will work. There’s no strategy in place whatsoever and one won’t be put in place until sometime in 2024.
“The issue of student accommodation is a very sensitive one. Students have been shafted for over a decade with overpriced accommodation, that’s often overcrowded and unsuitable to their needs.
“Many are having to undertake long commutes and are enduring a significantly diminished student experience.
“It’s very unfair to make grandiose announcements before any plan for delivery is put in place. There’s a real Walter Mitty aspect to all of this. Great expectations crashing upon the reality of falling standards.
“To be honest I think it’s equally bad practice to also be making endless announcements of supposedly new funding for the sector, which on closer inspection proves to have already been provided for and previously announced.
“Students deserve better than this. Quite frankly, we all do.”