“We aim to develop a smart economy and become known as the innovation island”, according to that esteemed authority on all things “smart”, Brian Cowen. In fact, in his speech in 2008 on “Building Ireland’s Smart Economy”, the word appears over and over again. The word education however is noticeably absent in the 2,000 word speech.
This isn’t an unfortunate oversight, but a symbol of the government’s treatment of education. Thousands of people are looking to further themselves by going onto third level education in the hope of avoiding the worst of the recession, and the government’s response? Increase the fees, cut the teaching staff, make getting grants more difficult, and leave thousands without a place in college.
This year has seen a large increase in the numbers applying to the CAO for places in college. Particularly noticeable is the 26% increase in the number of mature students applying – undoubtedly largely people who have also suffered at the hand of the crisis by being thrown on the dole, and are now looking to return to education. Twenty thousand of those applying for a place will not get one, not because they aren’t intelligent enough, or willing to put in the work, but because the government aren’t willing to put in the funding, and create enough places. In terms of those applying for places in the PLCs, the situation is even worse – with 37,000 applying for 13,000 places.
That’s not the only barrier the government are putting in our way either though. The seemingly unending hikes in registration fees, now at €1,500 and rumoured to be going up possibly to as much as €3,000, undoubtably pushes many away from following on their education.
Funding of college services has been slashed by 5% and on top of this, staff levels have fallen 6% due to the recruitment ban, resulting in cuts in tutorials and supports for students. This is in addition to the long term underfunding which has led to a situation where according to a government report 40% of college buildings are “seriously inadequate”.
There is nowhere young people can hide from the crisis. Even those who manage to struggle through college face long term unemployment, given the scale of the crisis. We can’t run either – this crisis is international. Our only hope is to make a stand and fight. Get in touch with the Socialist Party or Socialist Youth in your college – phone Eddie 087 3141986.