‘No chance to react’ to college fund cut on Sherkin Island

The project co-ordinator for Sherkin Island Development Society says the decision to cut funding to a third-level course on the island means the community has not had a chance to react or seek alternative funding.

‘No chance to react’ to college fund cut on Sherkin Island

Aisling Moran says the society needs to know its funding arrangements in September, adding that this late decision, taken just last month, means there are real concerns that the community aspect of the programme will not be able to continue until May 2018.

She told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland that the programme, a partnership between Sherkin Island Development Society and Dublin Institute of Technology, is a unique and innovative one that adds to the fabric of social life on the island and means that five people can permanently live on Sherkin. Ms Moran said it is estimated that the programme results in an economic spin-off of €150,000 for the island annually.

Ms Moran said the programme is hugely important to the island.

“Last week alone, on a cold wet January morning, crossing Baltimore harbour, we had almost 20 students coming onto our small island, coming past the 15th-century abbey, into the community hall that was built in 1983 by the islanders to get high-end, third-level degree programme,” she said.

“What the community here has done is they have taken one of their biggest issues which is population, and they have brought in, through a unique and innovate programme, approximately 20 people every weekend.”

Last November, when uncertainty over funding emerged, Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) gave a commitment that students will be able to finish an art degree on the island.

Sherkin Island Development Society (SIDS) employs four local people to offer administrative help and facilities in support of the course, but had to put them on protective notice last November because it could not guarantee the jobs into the future.

The second and fourth-year students of the Bachelor of Arts in Visual Arts take classes on Sherkin at weekends, and some elements are delivered online.

DIT pays for teaching and other academic elements, but SIDS has depended for its input in the past on €60,000 a year from Cork County Council and the Department of Culture, Heritage, and the Gaeltacht.

Cork County Council and the department previously equally shared the €60,000 cost but it was agreed in 2016 that the council would reduce its share to €20,000 for the 2016/17 academic year. That contribution has now been cut further to €10,000.

According to Ms Moran, that puts the co-funding arrangement in jeopardy.

“There are real concerns that the community aspect of this programme won’t be able to see it through to the end of May 2018,” she said.

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