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The next Government has to invest in future of third-level education

As Fine Gael and Labour Party delegates prepare to meet for pre-election conferences later this month, the Irish Federation of University Teachers (IFUT) wishes to draw their attention to the escalating crisis in third-level education.

Third-level education is increasingly being reduced to poor relation status in the education system, despite soaring student numbers. Under the outgoing government, funding per student at third-level fell below that of second level for the first time ever.

The years 2007 to 2014 saw funding to universities slashed by 26% and to other colleges by 24%. Staff numbers declined by 4,500 from 2008 to 2013.

At the same time, student numbers at third-level surged by over 16% from 2008 to 2014.

Increasing academic staff are being employed on temporary and highly insecure employment contracts, while research in universities is undermined and academic staff are denied time to engage in research activities.

The next government must address gender quality in staff promotions, by ensuring that universities implement the recommendations of the HEA’s ‘National Review of Gender Equality in Higher Education’, which is due to report in June.

Finally, education should be excluded from the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which would facilitate access by discredited private US colleges to Ireland, with heavy penalties imposed on the taxpayer if denied. The EU Foreign Affairs Council of Ministers has excluded the audiovisual sector from TTIP to preserve and promote cultural and linguistic diversity within the EU. The same reasoning justifies an exemption for education from TTIP. The next Programme for Government is the place to begin to put things right.

Mike Jennings

General Secretary

Irish Federation of University Teachers

Merrion Square

Dublin 2


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