Industrial action to begin at ITs next week
Two-thirds of the academic staff of the country's 14 institutes of technology will begin industrial action on Monday over plans to merge the colleges into technological universities.
Members of the Teachers' Union of Ireland (TUI) voted by a 85pc majority in favour of the action which will begin on April 4 with a refusal to cooperate with any aspect of the merger.
Union members believe that the mergers, as they stand, will seriously disadvantage students from lower socio-economic backgrounds and are more related to cost-cutting than academic considerations.
They say the mergers come at a time when there has been a cut of €190m in funding, while lecturer numbers have decreased by 9.5pc as the number of students increased by 32pc.
They also believe the proposals will put regional institutes such as Letterkenny, Sligo and Tralee at a disadvantage to institutes in the larger urban areas like Cork and Galway. TUI assistant general secretary, Aidan Kenny warned resources at regional institutes would be "asset stripped" as a result of the move.
A work-to-rule had previously been imposed at Cork Institute of Technology but this will now be scaled back to the first phase of industrial action as voted for in the national ballot.
Mr Kenny, said students who need extra supports to achieve their degrees would also be at a disadvantage. "The HEA (Higher Education Authority), through external consultants, is encouraging the institutes to reduce the number of teaching hours to students," he said.
"They're proposing reduction of courses and the amalgamation of programmes but that will increase class sizes. The OECD average for the student/teacher ration at third level is 16:1 but our institutes are operating at 23:1 and these HEA consultants are seeking that is increased."
The TUI called for meaningful negotiations over the plans to set up technological universities.