Teachers and students stood side by side on the picket lines at Dundalk IT as Institutes of Technology (IoTs) throughout the country remained closed on Wednesday last and those involved have vowed to continue their campaign in the weeks and months ahead.
Last week’s industrial action is part of a national campaign organised by the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) and supported by the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) to highlight the crisis in Higher Education brought about by government cuts.
Since 2008 government funding to DkIT has been cut by 36%, while student numbers have risen by 32%.
Speaking at a joint TUI/USI press conference DkIT Students’ Union President Aaron Lawless stated: “DkIT represents the only opportunity of a higher education to many students in the region and there is a fear amongst students that their chance of an education is slipping away.
“The government seems to think only in numbers, but students are more than just numbers. Further planned cuts to funding, and the rise in student fees they entail, risks effectively closing the doors of DkIT to the students it has traditionally served.’
Dundalk IT TUI Vice-Chair Kenneth Sloane added: “DkIT has been an engine for enterprise, economic growth and social equality in the region. For every €1 invested in DkIT the regional economy benefits by a multiplier of €7. However all this is being jeopardised by the underfunding of the sector.
“Currently we are being denied the funds to do our jobs effectively. Staff to student ratios have increased dramatically, support services to students have been cut and the Institute struggles to fund basic teaching resources. This crisis is a direct result of years of government cuts.”
TUI Branch Chair Dr Tom Dooley informed the Louth constituency general election candidates who attended the meeting: “We need to be clear, the cause of this crisis is underfunding and the solution lies with the Minister for Education, Jan O’Sullivan.
“Last month DkIT had additional cuts imposed by the Department of Education and the Higher Education Authority. We want that additional cutback plan reversed by the Minister, and we want public support from local politicians to persuade the Minister to reverse those cuts. Until that cutback plan is off the table our campaign of action will continue,” he said.