The president of University College Students’ Union (UCDSU) has written an open letter to Ireland’s general election candidates urging them to address “the challenges and needs of students and young people in Ireland” ahead of a major cross-party debate on the future of higher education funding.
Joanna Siewierska asked candidates to stop the “commercialisation of higher education”, as well as tackle issues such as housing, health, direct provision and sustainability.
“Students are already shaping modern Ireland”, Siewierska said. “They are activists, entrepreneurs, researchers and leaders in their communities – our voices matter. We are not a homogenous group, nor should we be. We are from the length and breadth of the country and represent many diverse backgrounds.”
“As a Students’ Union”, she said, “we work every day with and on behalf of our 33,000 students to create a better campus, better opportunities and better experiences for students, as well as lobbying for social change. We are asking all candidates seeking election to listen to the concerns of our thirty-thousand strong student population, and other students around Ireland”.
“Dear candidates, we are asking you to respond to the challenges and needs of students and young people in Ireland today. In order to succeed in winning the student vote in this election, you must champion equality and social justice in your plans for the future of this country.”
Siewierska wrote that candidates “have to have a clear and actionable plan to tackle the housing crisis that is crippling our society and exploiting students and families who have no choice but to pay extortionate rents or pay for long commutes, in order to access education”.
She also criticised Ireland’s much-criticised direct provision system, calling it “shameful and inhumane”, and called for action on the housing crisis, mental health and trans healthcare.
“You must champion sustainability and be ambitious for a carbon neutral Ireland. We need to start a radical green transition that does not leave anyone behind. And last, but certainly not least, you must act urgently to stop the commercialisation of higher education by addressing the funding crisis in our sector. The damage that is currently being done to our public education system through privatisation is paralysing the public goals of our Universities.”
Election spokespeople and candidates will today participate in a debate on the future of higher education and research in Trinity. Organised jointly by the Union of Students in Ireland, the Royal Irish Academy, the Technological Higher Education Association and the Irish Universities Association, it’s likely to see issues like funding and accommodation debated.