The lack of government funding for third level education is affecting students, staff, and services across the sector, it has been claimed.
Staff and students at both UCC and CIT walked out yesterday to call for an increase in funding at third level.
“Our counselling services are underfunded, our buildings are falling apart, our library doesn't have enough space to cater for the number of students we have and this all comes down to the lack of funding we receive from the Government,” said UCC Student Union president Alan Hayes, in an email to students.
While funding has been cut in the past decade, student fees have actually increased by more than 350%.
“We’re seeing constant cuts to education funding yet we’re seeing increases in fees,” said UCC Student Union deputy president Kelly Coyle.
“We’re also seeing the cost of living increase, grants declining and services declining.
“We have waiting lists for counselling, buildings falling apart, the doctor's office is full, lectures are overcrowded because the university just doesn’t have the money to provide the proper infrastructure and system that there needs to be,” she added.
“The government just simply aren’t giving them enough money to do it.”
Ms Coyle said students are struggling to attend college due to the increased fees, a lack of government investment and reduced grants.
“We can see this across the board.
“Fees are going up and students just simply can’t afford them.
“After Brexit, we’ll actually have the highest fees in the EU.” Gary Hurley who works in UCC’s International Office and represents SIPTU, which represents 600 admin staff in UCC, said the “significant funding reductions” have impacted staff as well.
He warned that reduced funding will have a “devastating impact” in the future.
“In the next decade alone, they’re predicting another 25,000 students coming into the system of universities in Ireland.
“That’s a huge number and unless funding and resourcing are increased to meet that, then we have a huge problem ahead.
Some staff members are being forced to complete up to 60% more than their usual workload as a result of cuts and underfunding, according to Mr Hurley.
“Stress levels have significantly increased.
“We would have to deal with a lot of members who are actually having to take months out because they’re at breaking point.
“There are many staff here that have to work up to 9pm at night and that’s not good for people.
“Every staff member in UCC really wants to do the very best for priority number one which is the students but with very limited resources, increasing pressure, being expected to do more on less, it’s very, very difficult to maintain the standards that students should be getting.”
Edward Lahiff, chair of the Irish Federation of University Teachers (IFUT) UCC branch, said staff and students share concerns surrounding the lack of funding.
“I think the staff, like the students, are very concerned at the long term decline in public funding for universities.
“We see this every day, we see it in staff-student ratios, we see it in the struggles students have in trying to combine work with studies, we see it in the delays in new appointments and provisions of facilities within the university,” he added.
“We’ve experienced a dramatic fall in public funding in recent years and we’re all struggling to make up for that.
“It’s causing the universities to adopt different strategies such as trying to recruit more overseas students, look towards more corporate funding.
“But in our opinion, that’s no substitute for a proper public funding model.”