Sinn Féin Councillor Conor D. McGuinness has said that Government inaction has led to Waterford students and their parents handing over thousands of euros for accommodation they are unlikely to use and extortionate fees for a reduced learning experience.
“It is outrageous that the Government has sat on its hands while hard earned money was demanded from students for accommodation when all indications were that public health would require them to stay at home and do their learning on-line.
“Not until Friday late afternoon, when all campus accommodation was paid, did Minister Harris come out and advise all learning to be conducted on-line.
“The blatant truth is that students were again used to plug the gap for the chronic underfunding of third level institutions.
“They are given 50 percent less funding per student than in 2008 – 72 percent less if we count for inflation.
“They have been starved of public funding, leading them to take on unsustainable amounts of debt, prioritise commercial activities and push the financial burden onto students.
“The impact of the pandemic means universities are looking at a €348 million loss of income, with International fees alone estimated to go down by €181 million.
“As we follow the COVID outbreaks in Scottish and English Universities, where hundreds of students remain in isolation in Dundee, Liverpool and Manchester, we need to act quickly to protect the health of 174,000 third level students.
“How are we going to ensure that the educational experience is a positive one and the quality of learning is preserved?
“This must be done in partnership with students, staff, unions and Government.
“At least 11 Universities in Britain and Scotland, as well as Queens University Belfast, have organised their own testing, tracing and tracking system.
“TCD is piloting ‘blanket testing’, and I am urging Government to provide all the necessary resources to ensure this happens in all our third level institutions.”