10.02.2010
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Opposition to weakening of student services in Ireland

ESU and the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) disagree with the Irish Universities Associations’ assertion that the definition of student services should be extended to core academic services, allowing universities to move funding from the former to the latter.

LETTER

TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN

The European Students’ Union (ESU) supports the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) in its objections to the Irish Universities Associations’ assertion that the definition of student services should be extended to core academic services, allowing universities to move funding from the former to the latter.

ESU and USI see this move as a threat to the existence and quality of the social services, and attempt to introduce tuition fees through the back door. ESU and USI strongly oppose that the increased financial burden of higher education institutions – caused by the current economic crisis – is to be placed on the shoulders of students by decreasing the funding to their support services they count upon.

Last October, representatives from the National Unions’ of Students (NUSes) in Europe gathered in Stockholm to discuss student services in relation to the economic crisis that has hit Europe and the threats it brings to the financing of higher education. The NUSes emphasised that the crisis and the budget cuts that have followed, do not only impact higher education institutions, but also the economical situation of students, and hence the need for student support services is bigger than ever. The NUSes strongly agreed, that “the main aim of student support services should be to support equal access, duration and completion to higher education for all students”. They concluded that publicly provided student services are essential for students order to foster the basic needs of students, such as food, health care and housing, especially when they are forced to survive on their small budget.

The ministers responsible for higher education in the 46 Bologna signatory countries have repeatedly made commitments and set goals to strengthen the social dimension of higher education: a topic that recently has been placed on the top of the agenda of the Spanish Presidency of the European Union. The core definition the ministers have given to the social dimension is that “the student body entering, participating in, and completing higher education at all levels, should reflect the diversity of our populations”. In order to reach these goals set, the ministers that met in Bergen 2005  and again in London 2007 , stressed the need for governments to take measures to ensure equal opportunities for students, by providing adequate student services and support students in financial and economic aspects. Furthermore, in Leuven 2009 , they reaffirmed their previous commitments, and emphasised the strong need for “removing all barriers to study, and creating the appropriate economic conditions for students to be able to benefit from the study opportunities at all levels.”

On behalf of the ESU Executive Committee,

Ligia Deca
ESU Chairperson

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