16th October 2013, Wednesday
By Bryan T. Smyth
New figures released by the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) show a massive increase in student enrollments in Cork Institute of Technology at a time when both staff levels and budgets have plummeted. The union has warned of the hugely detrimental effects of cutbacks on the sector.
Between 2008 and 2013, Cork Institute of Technology has lost the equivalent of 74 fulltime lecturers – a decrease of 11.4% – as a result of cutbacks. Meanwhile, student enrolments between 2008 and 2012 grew by 899 or 9.5% with further growth expected when the 2013 figures are available. Between 2008 and 2012, funding for the Institute fell starkly by over €13.15m or 18.4%%, and a further funding cut announced in this week’s Budget will have further negative implications.
TUI represents lecturers and research staff in Cork IT. Commenting on the figures, TUI Assistant General Secretary Aidan Kenny said:
“Increased student participation at third level should always be welcomed, but we are gravely concerned by the severe effects that cutbacks are having on the quality of experience for students. Put simply, the high quality teaching and learning experience academic staff in Cork IT want to deliver has been put at risk due to draconian budget and staff cuts.
Academic support has been identified as being of huge importance in increasing student retention and completion rates; this is of particular relevance during a student’s first year in higher education. Due to the reduction in academic staff numbers, lecturers are finding their workload has increased and find it extremely difficult to allocate the necessary time to academic support for students. Class sizes have increased, lectures can be crowded and lecturers are finding it increasingly difficult to provide personalised feedback to individual students. In addition, more students mean a greater demand on facilities such as laboratories where demand is outstripping supply.
Lecturer workload involving assessment, examinations, feedback and administrative duties has increased massively. This is resulting in less time for research, scholarship and other academic duties such as engagement with industry and community.
In the country’s current economic predicament, it is damaging in the extreme that lecturers are being prevented from contributing to the growth of the knowledge society and economy. Institutes of technology are regional generators of innovation and entrepreneurship and need to be appropriately funded in order to kick-start jobs growth and build high level knowledge capacity to meet the future needs of the economy. The local economy in Cork would also be boosted by such investment in higher education.
TUI is advocating more substantial and strategic budgets to support the regional mission of the Institutes and boost economic recovery at a local level’.