TCDSU Supports Publicly-Funded Third-Level Education
At Trinity College Dublin Student Council on January 24th the Students' Union (TCDSU) voted in favour of formally supporting a publicly-funded third-level education system, adopting a position against fees and income-contingent loan schemes. While the Union had a pre-existing stance in opposition to fee increases for third-level education since December 2015, this is the first time TCDSU has taken a stance in favour of the publicly-funded model. The Union has also called for a review of the SUSI grant to reflect the cost of living and an increase in the National Training Fund to fund higher education.
This aligns Trinity College Students' Union's position with that of the Union of Students in Ireland (USI).
This vote follows the publication of the Cassells Report by the Expert Group on Future Funding for Higher Education in 2016. The Cassells Report details three funding models for third-level education: the current system, a publicly-funded option and an income-contingent option similar to the schemes currently in use in Australia and Great Britain.
USI and many other students' unions in Ireland have adopted positions in favour of the publicly-funded model. In October 2016, up to 15,000 demonstrators marched through Dublin as part of the March for Education, calling on the government to support a publicly model for third-level education. Of that number, 1,500 students were from Trinity College Dublin.
A number of other students spoke in favour of the motion at Student Council. Conor Reddy, a class representative of the Union, stated that the motion opposed "a system that will see disadvantaged students coming out of college with inordinate of debt while others will leave with no debt.”
TCDSU President Kieran McNulty spoke in favour of the motion as well, highlighting the burden an income-contingent loan can impose on students and citing Australia and the US as countries where graduates suffer crippling student debt. McNulty stated that the motion was “hugely vital”, and that “if there is a recovery we need to be part of it.”
McNulty further states that 'employers need to play a much greater role in higher education funding. We sell our country on the premise of having a highly educated workforce, and we need to fund our higher education system to ensure that. This means that employers have a part, and the Cassells report calls for this very clearly.
'We face a crisis in third-level education on many fronts - not least in terms of fee costs. Our accommodation costs spiral and the SUSI grant is not nearly enough considering that the average cost for a student living in Dublin is 11,000 euro. Income-contingent loan schemes rise in every country in which they are introduced. We need to protect access routes for mature students and part-time students. The government needs to make a comprehensive reform of the costing of colleges - not least including a commitment to reforming the apprenticeship sector - before we make a choice which will harm access and leave our students with debt.'