USI Criticises ESRI Report

The Union of Students in Ireland has criticised the recent report of the ESRI on the Cost of Participation in Higher Education for being outdated. The USI believes that the report, reliant on surveys detailed between 2003 and 2006, does not adequately portray the current situation of students given the recent recession, increased unemployment rates and changes in costs of living in Ireland today.

The Report itself indicates that the primary source of data used is the Eurostudent Survey of 2003-04, which “provides valuable data on the income, expenditure and wellbeing of 3,900 full and part-time higher education students at undergraduate and postgraduate level across the institutions.”

The Report also notes its intention to chart changes since the early 1990s in the education system, noting its reliance on School Leavers Reports of 1992 and 2004, based on school leavers from 1990-91 and 2002-3. USI President Peter Mannion stated that “”Much of the data contained in this ESRI report is outdated and irrelevant. The assumptions that parents are still able to part fund their children’s Higher Education, and that students can secure part-time employment, are now redundant.”

The report indicates evidence of a trend that mature students are overall more dissatisfied with their financial situation than non-mature students. Mannion stated “Many of the points raised in the report still need to be addressed- for example, the need for greater financial support for mature students.” The recent changes in the Budget 2010 mean that new mature students in the academic year 2001 will not qualify for the grant if in receipt of the Back to Education Allowance, which is an issue requiring immediate addressing according to Mannion.

UCC SU Welfare Officer Rebecca Murphy, when asked to comment, stated that she welcomes the report, but that she “would be in agreement with USI that the figures are quite dated in [the report]- the economic climate has changed drastically since the survey was carried out, and even I have seen the spike in cases of financial hardship this year in my job. Almost every single student who calls in to me has an issue with finance.”