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Coronavirus Ireland: University teachers call for emergency support package

Colleges face financial ruin, IFUT have said

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Coronavirus swabs. Photo: PA

Coronavirus swabs. Photo: PA

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(stock photo)

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Coronavirus swabs. Photo: PA

The Irish Federation of University Teachers (IFUT) has called for an emergency support package for higher education similar to those implemented for business.

IFUT general secretary Joan Donegan said colleges faced financial ruin due to the likely collapse in foreign student intake next year.

These students account for around one-tenth of the student body but, due to their much higher fee structures, deliver up to a third of fee income for many colleges, she said.

Ms Donegan added that the sector faced further major income loss from collapse of summer course activity, extreme difficulty in obtaining new research projects and loss of student accommodation income.

“Without an urgent government rescue package, staff lay-offs and collapse of course delivery may be the inevitable outcome,” she warned.

The IFUT general secretary expressed particular concern that the many contract and precariously employed lecturing, tutorial and research staff on which most colleges increasingly depend, faced immediate lay-off.

“Without these staff, colleges will be unable to deliver many courses or maintain educational standards,” she said.

IFUT is also seeking a fully inclusive discussion around college resumption dates, approval of future new online or other learning models and the length and structure of the next academic year.

“Without such inclusivity, academic planning by staff will be impossible. Without clarity, many thousands of Leaving Cert students may simply opt to defer enrolment, causing further strain on the very existence of some education institutions, “she said.

Ms Donegan said the Australian government had announced a higher education relief package in excess of €10bn. It included supports for additional access to ‘nursing, teaching, counselling, allied health or other areas considered national priorities’ according to their Education Minister, she said.

“We need similar innovative thinking and policies here as a matter of urgency. Above all, academic staff and planners who will have to plan the roll-out of education courses in the ‘new normal’ must be at the centre of discussion and consultation.

“The very future of our economy and society depends on educating our young people effectively at this time. Any new programme for government must also include a clear commitment to prioritise a survival plan for higher education,” she said.

Online Editors