As part of the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) campaign against underfunding of the institute of technology sector, a series of lunchtime protests were held yesterday outside all Institutes of Technology, Dáil Éireann and the Higher Education Authority (HEA) offices.
The union, which represents over 4,000 lecturing and research staff in Institutes of Technology, says severe underfunding continues to have a direct, negative impact on the student experience of higher education and pointed out that regular service to students will not be affected in any way by today’s protests.
Speaking yesterday, TUI President Joanne Irwin said that every day lecturers see the damage that an era of austerity cuts has had on the education system and the quality of experience for students.
“Between 2008 and 2015, student numbers within the Institute of Technology sector rose by 21,411 or 32%. Over the same period, the number of lecturers fell by 535 or 9.5%.
“While lecturers welcome the increase in third level participation, the complete failure to provide appropriate funding and to maintain appropriate staffing levels has had a grossly negative impact on the student experience of higher education. Students have suffered larger class sizes and significantly curtailed access to essential facilities such as libraries and laboratories.
“They have also endured sharp cuts to tutorial and student support provision. As a result of the fall in lecturer numbers and the steep rise in student numbers, lecturer workload has increased considerably.
“Findings of a survey carried out by TUI (April 2015) show that lecturers were experiencing high levels of work-related stress as a result of cutbacks and rationalisation of the sector, and we believe that the situation has worsened since then.
“Academic workload in the Institutes of Technology is disproportionate, unfair and unsustainable, and with lecturing delivery hours significantly above domestic and international norms, academic staff are severely restricted in terms of their engagement with research.
“In addition, many academic staff suffer income poverty as a result of low hours and insecure employment. We urge the Department of Education and Skills to make appropriate provision for the sector in next month’s budget and to engage with TUI on these matters as a matter of urgency.”