Sinn Féin spokesperson on Further and Higher Education Rose Conway-Walsh has called on the government to ensure reform proposals for higher education will deliver a sustainable funding model and position the sector as a powerful driver of social development and economic growth.
Teachta Conway-Walsh said:
“I welcome reports that the Minister is finally bringing funding reform proposals to cabinet. We must begin the process of undoing the damage caused by 10 years of underfunding of our third-level education system.
“Over the years we have seen the financial burden pushed onto students and parents with the highest fees in the EU, unaffordable on-campus accommodation and no support for part-time students.
“We have one of the worst pupil-teacher ratios in Europe, and staff are increasingly on insecure and low-paid contracts. Irish universities have continued to fall in international rankings and technological universities remain at an even greater disadvantage due to a two-tier funding system.
“Whether it is providing the workforce we need for our healthcare system and construction sector, or carrying out research on climate change and biodiversity loss, higher education is vital to meet the challenges we face today.
“Yet, according to the IUA, the state provides 37% less funding per student today than it did in 2008. This has a huge knock-on impact on education and research.
“The Cassells report outlined three options. Sinn Féin has long advocated for option 1 that would see a predominantly state-funded system and abolishing fees.
“I urge the Minister to support this option and take on board Sinn Féin recommendations for expanding and improving SUSI.
“It is vital that the chronic underfunding of third-level education is addressed if we want to remain internationally competitive and build progressive social change at home.”