USI VP: HEA Report On College Performance Not Surprising

Worries over the quality of university graduates is nothing new, according to USI vice president for Academic Affairs Jack Leahy following renewed interest in problems associated with the decrease of funds for Irish universities.

The most recent performance report published by the Higher Education Authority (HEA) shows that Irish third level education institutes have taken in an extra 15,000 students, with no change in class size, as student teacher ratios have expanded from 1:16 to 1:20.

Leahy said that he thinks it’s “important” to note that people have been downgrading the quality of Irish graduates due to under-funding for “quite some time”.

In order to tackle the problem of funding in higher level education a special group was set up by the Government back in 2014, led by Peter Cassell, former general secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. One of their most topical suggested solutions was a student loan scheme, which the USI actively protested against last year.

“We emphasise that a high-fee model is proven to disincentivise knowledge acquisition in favour of simply achieving results” said Leahy.

Professor Patrick O’Shea, the new president of University College Cork (UCC) recently suggested that universities must find new, independent ways to generate income in order to sustain themselves in the future and contribute to building a ‘strong’ economy.

He told Cork’s 96fm that “It’s clear that a strong economy is necessary for strong universities, and strong universities are necessary for strong economies”.

Leahy of the USI also stressed that the matter of graduate quality not only effects students but enterprises and he economy as well. “This should be a matter of concern for businesses across the country as we continue to deliberate the role and funding of higher education.”

Michelle Martin

Credit: USI