Students failed by new Department of Further and Higher Education

Senator Annie Hoey image
29 February 2024
  • Minister Harris must outline to Oireachtas Committee plans to ease the stress for students

Labour’s further and higher education spokesperson Senator Annie Hoey has criticised Minister Harris’s failure to help students who are struggling to attend and stay in further education.

Senator Hoey said:

“The enormous financial burden of attending further and higher education is well known however it is deeply concerning to learn that things are getting worse, not better, for students despite the newly created Department for Further and Higher Education.

“There has been a hands off approach by Minister Harris when it comes to identifying the real needs of students. College dropout rates are increasing significantly, with students citing long commutes and the cost of living as some of the pressures they continue to face.

“No one is immune to the housing or cost of living crisis that this Government has failed to address. Many students simply cannot find affordable accommodation near further education institutions, leaving more and more students opting to stay at home and commute long distances.

“As well as the pressure this puts students under in terms of getting college work done, it means many students are missing out on the experience of meeting new people, going out and socialising, joining clubs and societies, key parts of the college experience that keeps students engaged and energised.

“Meanwhile, those students who are lucky enough to find a place to live are really struggling to keep up with the cost of everyday essentials, plus the high cost of attending education in Ireland.

“For several years the Labour Party has outlined a costed plan to reduce the €3,000 student contribution charge towards eventually scrapping it, but only now are we seeing some action from the Minister. Irish students have some of the highest fees in the EU, and Labour supports a publicly funded model of higher education as outlined in the Cassells report. A well educated workforce is critical to our future economic growth, and further education should be accessible to all students irrespective of means.

“Minister Harris needs to present himself to Committee to outline his plans for students for the forthcoming academic year. Rather than leaving students panic with deep uncertainty about their future in further education, Labour is calling on Minister Harris to outline in detail what supports will be made available and what action he will take to ease the cost of education in Ireland today.”

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