Institutes of Technology (IoT) in Ireland are undergoing a crisis in funding according to the Union of Students in Ireland (USI).
The USI was reacting to a report published by the Higher Education Authority which shows, that the cash balances of the IoT sector has declined by nearly a half in the last three years from €218 million in 2013 to €116 million at present.
Further, the report projects that the deterioration will likely continue for the next five years with colleges such as Letterkenny IT, Waterford IT, GMIT, Tralee IT, Dundalk IT, and Cork IT identified as being at particular risk.
USI President Annie Hoey emphasised that these figures were indicative of growing with the infrastructure of the ITs.
“While staff and teacher wages take up a huge part of the expenditures for these IoTs, staff numbers have dropped by over 10% while student numbers have continued to increase. We are urging Minister Bruton to allocate appropriate public funding as a solution to the problems outlined in this report,” she said.
The problems facing the IoTs stemmed directly from the government’s lack of investment in third level education, the USI have said.
An immediate increase in base funding by the government is required in order to prevent IoTs from being forced to impose caps on student numbers or close their doors altogether.
What the USI wants to avoid above all else is for the government to resort to the same method of dealing with funding shortfalls in higher level education that were employed throughout the recession, that being: increases in fees.
Hoey also rules out the viability of a student loan scheme; “Income contingent loans abroad in the UK, US, and Australia do not work. Our government must put their money where their mouths are and invest more now without burdening people with debt.”
“We already have the 2nd highest fees in Europe and the 8th highest fees in the world. Clearly, high student fees do not necessarily lead to a quality system. Over 12,000 students, staff, parents and workers took the streets against any increase in fees. The system is cracking, and our current model does not work.”
An increase in fees would hit students who attend IoTs disproportionately harder than students at Universities.
Hoey pointed out that IoTs have the largest proportion of students in receipt of maintenance grants.
A student loan scheme was speculated on prior to budget 2017 but did not manifest.
Prior to the issuing of the budget, 5,000 students marched through Dublin with the USI demanding proper college funding rather that loans that put a burden on students.
The USI emphasised the role that ITs play in regional industrial development, and warned that under investment would have severe economic consequences down the line.
-By Briain Kelly