DCU students staged a demonstration as part of the #FundTheFuture campaign on Thursday at the U, which protests against the higher education “funding crisis”.
The nationwide campaign by the Union of Students in Ireland believes that cuts to higher education during the austerity-era have not been reinstated.
Craig McHugh, VP for Education and Placement for DCUSU, said that “We believe that that higher education is a public good commodity and that should be free to the point of access”.
During the recession, higher education funding was cut by almost 40 per cent. Ireland currently has college fees capped at €3,000 per annum. With the onset of Brexit, Ireland will have the highest college fees in the European Union.
The Cassells Report was commissioned in 2016 to assess the funding for higher education in the long term. The report found that urgent changes were required to ensure the system was “fit for purpose”.
To do so, the report recommended three solutions. One is to increase general taxation and scrap the student contribution fee, increase taxation and retain the €3000 per year fee or to introduce an income-contingent loan scheme.
The USI has previously protested against the introduction of a loan scheme with rallies outside the Dáil in both 2016 and 2017.
“Ultimately, loan schemes are proven not to work. When you look at countries like the UK and Australia which introduced such schemes, they limit education to the privileged,” McHugh said. “It also puts students in years of debt and makes it harder to save for situations in the future such as mortgages”.
The government has referred the review of loan schemes to the European Commission for a further economic analysis.
The government has stated that funding for higher education is €337 million higher in the 2019 Budget than it was in 2016.
Image Credit: Aoibhín Bryant