Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) have released their official reaction to the measures set out in the recent budget that will affect students — their reaction focused on the cost-of-living and minimum wage provisions as well as the higher education funding.
Overall, TCDSU stated that they “regret the missed opportunities with Budget 2024 but are not surprised that the government failed to tackle key areas of concern to students in the third-level sector, while recognising that once-off measures will help some”.
They “welcomed the €1,000/€1,500 reduction in third-level fees, the increased student grant as well as the return of the postgraduate maintenance grant, alongside the SUSI rate increases”. However they were disappointed with the “once-off and temporary nature of the reduction of third-level fees”. Instead they advocated for these measures to be made permanent to help alleviate financial barriers to third level education.
Additionally, they noted that students’ unions across the country “asked for significantly higher increases to the maintenance grants than the increase to all non-adjacent maintenance rates by €615 and adjacent maintenance rates by 10% from September 2024”.
TCDSU were further disappointed by what they deemed to be the lack of provisions in the budget to help tackle the ongoing student accommodation crisis. The Union criticised the increase to the Rent Tax Credit and tax break worth between €600 - €1,000 which was offered to landlords as they deemed this a “continuation of the government’s reliance on the market to deliver housing”. Before the budget was released TCDSU, in line with the USI had called for the budget surplus to have gone towards remeding the student accommodation crisis.
They criticised the increase in the minimum wage for being too small to tackle the mounting pressures and issues currently affecting young people and students. A call for the sub-minimum wage currently in place for workers aged 17, 18 and 19 to be abolished was reiterated by the union.
When it came to the funding allocated for postgraduate researchers and staff, TCDSU said they were “left in a difficult situation” as they did not benefit from many of the one-off measures in the budget. Though the budget provided an investment of €35m into core funding for pay, TCDSU are concerned about the lack of guarantees about how this money will be spent.
Thirty per cent of postgraduate researchers are currently funded by the Irish Research Council (IRC) and Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), this year they will receive an increase of €3,000 to their annual stipend. TCDSU described this increase as, “breadcrumbs” and repeated how it fell short of the demands of both the Postgraduate Workers’ Organisation and the recent government review recommendations for funding. The PWO’s demands for PRSI sick and parental leave were also not implemented by the budget and acknowledged by TCDSU. The 70 per cent of postgraduate workers who miss out on this stipend were highlighted as the TCDSU reiterated how financial barriers remain in place for those seeking to continue their studies after their undergrad.
Concerns that TCDSU said were raised by the third-level sector involving crumbling infrastructure, high student to staff ratios and the state of student services like counselling or health, remain underfunded despite the provisions made for them in the budget. In 2022, the government identified a €307m annual shortfall in core funding for third-level institutions but the budget is only providing €40 million towards this in 2023 with €60 million to follow in 2024.
The research budget for the next year has also decreased by 3 per cent when compared to last year. Though the Union did say that the recently introduced Research and Innovation Bill 2023 will alter the research landscape in Ireland.
A proposal to use the €1.5 billion National Training Fund to fund academia was not included in the budget and the TCDSU echoed the Irish University Association’s statement that this was a missed opportunity.
The Union finished their statement with a call to continue organising and protesting in order to make student’s voices heard. They included an appeal to students to register to vote in the upcoming elections.