The Irish Federation of University Teachers (IFUT) has called for third-level fees to be phased out by the country’s next government, in a pitch to political parties that also sees it demanding improvements to staff working conditions.
In a five-point plan, IFUT also calls for the government to tackle some of the recommendations of the Cassells report, and commit to its funding proposals. In 2016, the report recommended a €600 million investment in third-level by 2021.
In its proposal – which claims that the “decision to sacrifice funding of higher education following the 2008 recession has seriously undermined the sector” – IFUT calls for reforms to Ireland’s grant system amid increasing student accommodation prices.
This summer, The University Times revealed that less than seven per cent of purpose-built student accommodation constructed since 2016 costs less than €840 per month.
IFUT called third-level “grossly underfunded” and said the situation has “deteriorated very significantly both during and since the years of recession”.
Among its proposals, IFUT also argues that Ireland’s staff–student ratio – which currently stands at 20.6 students to every lecturer – is “worse than figures outlined over half a century ago in the Report of the Commission on Higher Education” in 1967.
It has called for all parties forming the next government to progressively tackle the prevalent issue of precarious work in the third level sector. Many early academic careers work under short, fixed-term contracts with without any opportunity for career progression. These contracts rarely lead to permanent or secure employment.
In November 2019, The University Times reported that members of Trinity’s technical and support staff have been denied the opportunity for promotions and progressions this year amid a restructuring of College’s career advancement structures, leaving many feeling “helpless” and others with a sense that they’ve been denied the progressions they were promised when they took their jobs.
One staff member described a feeling of “stagnation” among many members of staff.
Last week, the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) launched a general election manifesto that called for an end to Ireland’s student contribution charge and demanding free public transport for students.
USI President Lorna Fitzpatrick told The University Times that the manifesto is “quite broad but very realistic in relation to what we are asking for to be priorities of the next government”.
Access to higher education, she added, is “is a massive priority for USI”.