'We are all struggling to make up the differences': Demonstrations taking place to highlight third level cuts

Students walked out of classes for a lunchtime demonstration at UCC and CIT today.

The students are striking as part of the 'Fund the Future' campaign, launched by the Union of Students in Ireland (USI).

Students say that funding cuts and increased student contribution charges have undermined services on campuses nationally and threaten to have an impact for many years to come.

At both Cork protests, students were joined by staff members in solidarity.

USI president, Síona Cahill, said that after Brexit, Irish students will pay more for their education than any others in the EU. She described the situation as unacceptable.

In Cork, students made their voices heard.

Kelly Coyle, deputy president of UCC Students Union, said: "We're calling for more higher education funding. Fees are increasing, the cost of living is increasing and grants are declining. It's having an impact. The doctors is constantly full, lectures are full and buildings are falling apart because the university doesn't have the money to put into it."

Staff unions, including IFUT, the lecturers Union, and SIPTU, which represents 600 administrative staff at UCC, joined the students.

They say that funding cuts are causing longer hours, fewer resources and more stress for staff.

Edward Lahiff, IFUT chairman, said: "We see it every day in staff:student ratios; the delays of new appointments; and the lack of new resources. We are all struggling to make up the differences."

Students and staff at third level campuses to walk out of lectures this afternoon

Students and staff at third level campuses will walk out of lectures this afternoon to shine a light on the growing crisis in higher education funding.

Major demonstrations will take place on the main campuses of UCC and CIT as part of the 'Fund the Future' campaign, with students set to walk out of classes at 1pm. Students from several other third level institutions will also strike at lunchtime.

The campaign, started by the Union of Students in Ireland (USI), calls for immediate investment in higher education in Ireland.

The current student contribution charge is €3,000 per annum. The figure increased by 363% between 2007 and 2014. Over the same period, third level funding was reduced, with students at UCC and CIT claiming that this had a significant impact on campus facilities, such as counselling services.

Síona Cahill, USI President, said that the current situation is 'unacceptable.'

"The sobering facts for students today is that at €3,000, Ireland will have the highest fees in the EU after Brexit. Meanwhile, SUSI grants have not increased for students in line with the cost of living and soaring rents in Ireland today," she said.

"Students and staff will join us in actions across all college campuses in a powerful action making clear that we will not be an easy target for cuts."

In a statement, the Coalition for Publicly Funded Education said that the funding issues now will continue to have a major impact in the future.

"The Department of Education and Skills has accepted the findings of the detailed analysis of the scale of the funding deficit that was carried out by various expert groups on their behalf. If urgent action is not taken, there’s a real risk that today’s 7 and 8-year old primary school students will not have sufficient college places available to them in 2030 when the demographic bulge peaks with an additional 40,000 students seeking to access third level."

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