Politicians 'more concerned with seagulls than students' - professor
A higher education boss has launched a scathing attack on the Government over third-level funding and claimed that politicians are more concerned about "savage seagulls" than 215,000 college students.
Professor Ciarán Ó Cathain painted a bleak picture of conditions in Irish colleges that included leaking roofs, computers grinding to a halt and cuts in mental-health supports for vulnerable students.
The Athlone IT president and chair of Institutes of Technology Ireland (IoTI) accused politicians of "doublespeak" in a hard-hitting address to a conference on future funding of higher education in the Royal Irish Academy (RIA).
Colleges suffered a 20pc cut in State funding between 2010 and 2015, with an even starker 50pc fall in capital spending, such as for buildings and technology, at a time when student numbers increased by 16-17pc.
While Professor Ó Cathain made a case for increased State investment, he also called for a levy on industry to help finance higher education
In his address, he said TDs were more concerned with savage seagulls, adding: "The wild birds, it seems, concern our parliamentarians far more than the fate of the 215,000 students currently in higher education."
He said the "stranglehold on investment is leading to erosion of our capital stock, equipment and infrastructural base.
"Leaking roofs and windows are going unrepaired, paint peels from walls, computers grind slowly, struggling to run industry software."
He warned that as ongoing investment in infrastructure was under threat, "so too is our capacity to attract international students to these shores".
Prof Ó Cathain also said that the number of students attending college counselling services had doubled since 2008, but the staff-to-student ratio had deteriorated.