Irish universities have launched a major public pressure campaign, urging the government to address the funding crisis that persists in higher education.
The Irish Universities Association (IUA), the lobbying body for Ireland’s seven universities, launched the Save Our Spark campaign, warning that further inaction may cause in a decrease in the number of college places for future students. A petition will be released to gather signatures in support of more funding for higher education.
In a press statement, the Director General of the IUA, Jim Miley, said: “For the first time ever, all seven Irish universities are coming together to demand urgent action on the funding crisis, as we need substantial investment to accommodate the extra students that are expected to enter the system over the next decade.”
“Our universities are where the Irish spark burns brightest and the key to protecting that spark is securing better state funding. The Government simply can’t continue to ignore this crisis.”
Stating that “it’s time to take action now”, Miley urged students, parents and members of the general public to visit the campaign’s website and to contact their public representatives about the issue.
Save Our Spark will be advertised in the media and on public transport, as well as on the campuses of the seven universities and on various social media platforms. It hopes to raise awareness around funding issues in the third-level sector and the government’s inaction on the crisis.
This campaign launch comes after a budget that left many in the higher education sector disappointed. While €150 million was allocated for research, higher and further education, just €57 will go towards higher education. This is significantly less than the €600 a year the Cassells report recommended in 2016.
Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe said that “investing in education has allowed Ireland to attract world-leading businesses across many sectors” when announcing the Budget last week.
The IUA recently launched its Ireland’s Future Talent charter, which yet again called on the government to “step up to the challenge and match the ambition” of Irish universities. The charter focusses improving autonomy and diversity in Irish universities in order to make them more sustainable and competitive.
Prof Patrick O’Shea, the Chair of the IUA, said: “This charter captures our commitment and is now incumbent on the government and stakeholders to work together.”
In an interview with The University Times in August, Miley expressed concerns that the expected increase in the number of students entering higher education in coming years will place more pressure on the higher education sector. “If action isn’t taken, the only certainty is that there won’t be places for some of those students. That’s the result of this. And the quality of the education people will get will suffer.”