Eighty two per cent of people believe that higher education needs more public funding, according to a new survey from the Coalition for Publicly Funded Education.
The survey of 1,000 people by Behaviour and Attitudes reveals that a majority of people believe that the embattled third-level sector needs more funding.
The survey did not ask what type of funding model the public would support.
The figures were revealed at the launch of the latest report from the coalition, made up of the Union of Students in Ireland (USI), the Irish Federation of University Teachers (IFUT) and other trade unions.
The coalition, since being launched in 2016, has been lobbying for better funding for higher education.
Today, the coalition called for €199 million to be invested in higher education over the short term.
Speaking at the launch today, Joe O’Connor, an organiser for trade union Fórsa, said: “We believe that higher education is predominantly a public good.”
“Student loans are not a viable option”, O’Connor said.
The Labour Party’s Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin and the Green Party’s Senator Grace O’Sullivan joined trade union leaders and and students for the report’s launch.
Anger was also directed at the rise of temporary contracts and “precarious” employment conditions for third-level staff.
Speaking at the launch today, USI President Michael Kerrigan said: “We are a generation that have been already handed down a lifetime of debt. We’re not taking another one.”
Later today, academics and student activists will gather at the Institute of International and European Affairs for a discussion on higher education funding. The Minister for Higher Education, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, will address the event, alongside Kerrigan and CEO of the Higher Education Authority (HEA) Graham Love.
While public scepticism towards student loans has grown in recent months, the government has done little to address the funding crisis in the sector, even as universities tumble down world rankings and anxiety among students and staff grows.
The Oireachtas Education and Skills Committee, charged by Minister for Education Richard Bruton with compiling a report on higher education funding, has failed so far to deliver, with some committee members suggesting agreement on a higher education funding model will prove unlikely.
Today, IFUT Secretary in Trinity John Walsh accused the government of “hypocrisy” when it comes to funding.
“Higher education is not the private sector. Higher education does not perform well as a third-rate corporation”, he said.