Third level education must be a top priority for the new government

The third level education sector is facing a 500 million euro loss in funding this year according to a May report released by the Higher Education Authority, and with each passing day it seems unlikely universities will receive anything close to half of that funding from the government.

The spotlight over the last few months has focused, understandably, on the difficulties primary and secondary schools are facing as they try to somehow miraculously get as many students back to in-person teaching as possible in September.

But universities are facing the exact same problem, on top of a massive in-coming loss of revenue due to an expected huge drop off in international student numbers there are also increased costs in trying to make campuses as safe as possible to bring students back.

But why is this not being treated with the same urgency as second level education?

The most frustrating thing is that if Ireland had previously invested in higher education to the same level as many of its EU counterparts our universities would never have become so reliant on international student fees to cover costs, and maybe this wouldn´t be the crisis it is quickly becoming.

Whatever the case, college students cannot suffer at the expense of this. The new academic year has not even begun and NUIG has already ignored their students financial well being, sparking national outrage as they want to charge students a “modest” fee of 295 euro to repeat their exams online, from their own homes, in August.

This is contrasted with DCU who made repeats and deferred modules free this August, a decision that should have been implemented in every single Irish university considering the unusual circumstances that all students had to complete our academic year in.

Funding the entire education sector through this pandemic has to be a top priority for this government, if Fine Gael and Fianna Fail want to have any hope of not getting the same abysmal young people vote in five years (or less) time. 

The new government has pledged to have a “renewed” focus when it comes to higher education, and they need to be focused on right now, not four years down the line when re-election looms over their heads and they all wrack their brains trying to discover a way for us to vote for them. 

College students are going to inherit this new, globally damaged economy scarily soon and they are going to be the ones dealing with the long-term effects of Covid-19.

They need to be given the best shot at excelling in their degrees so the upcoming workforce is as prepared as possible to boost Ireland back up after the tragedy of this year.

Emma Nevin