by Liam Cassidy
Representatives from NUS-USI and Queen’s University attended a rally today, 8th October, on the streets of Dublin ahead of next week’s Budget 2015 announcement from the Dáil. The aim of the rally was to highlight the growing importance of third-level education and encourage TDs to minimise cuts to education spending in next Wednesday’s announcement.
This rally is the most recent activity in USI’s campaign to maximise education’s public profile and in turn ensure funding for academic institutions and students in the future. Revolving around the hashtag #EducationIs, students have been encouraged in the last few weeks to contribute on social media by outlining what education means to them and what they believe it can do for society.
Maximising public exposure was clearly the aim of this rally through the heart of Dublin city centre, beginning at the Garden of Remembrance, passing along O’Connell Street, across O’Connell Bridge, past Trinity College and ending opposite Leinster House from which next week’s announcement will come.
Despite initial fears that the poor weather conditions would deter students’ unions from attending, an early estimate from Gardaí placed attendance numbers at around 6,000. However event organisers from USI were more conservative with an official rough estimate of around 2,500. As well as Queen’s students, there were representatives from the National Universities of Ireland Galway and Maynooth (NUIG and NUIM), University College Cork as well as Trinity College Dublin and technology institutes. Students from University College Dublin were not in attendance as they disassociated themselves from USI last year.
On the eve of the rally, NUS-USI president Rebecca Hall voiced her support for the rally on nusconnect.org, highlighting how “a strong and well resourced education service can help deliver the best future possible […] education and students make such an important contribution to society and this rally will help underline their very positive role in society”.
Further pressure has been put on ministers responsible for Budget 2015 in light of Trinity and UCD both falling in the Times World University Rankings.
Another key concern of USI activists is the protection of the maintenance grant upon which thousands of students rely to aid with their tuition contribution fees of around €2,000 as well as living expenses.
The rally was concluded by various speakers as well as musical performances from Temper-Mental Miss Elayneous and The Original Rudeboys. A speaker from SIPTU (Services Industrial Professional and Technical Union) as well as a representative of lecturers and university staff. President of USI, Laura Harmon concluded the day’s speeches opposite Leinster House stating that “education is a public good, education is the key to sustainable recovery, education is our best hope for the future.
“I am proud of the student movement because students are part of everything good and important in our society. Students are volunteers, charity workers, nurses, doctors, vets and teachers. Students are mothers and fathers, young and old.”