Today’s March for Education organised by the USI saw a turnout saw 5,000 students from across Ireland march against the introduction of an income contingent loan scheme in Ireland. The students also called for an end to government funding cuts to higher education and student grants which they claim are undermining the quality of the Irish Higher-level education system, and driving students into poverty.

President of the USI Micheal Kerrigan said that Ireland needed “an accessible and affordable higher education system”. Speaking to crowds outside the Custom House he empathised that preventing the introduction for an income contingent loan scheme was the USI number one priority. He also called on the government to reverse the cuts to student grant schemes to tackle the growing cost of student accommodation which he claimed was driving people out of college and into poverty.

Speaking on the flaws of the student loan system, Kerrigan said that that it would cost €10 billion to implement a income contingent loan scheme and at least 17 years before it became self-funding. He said higher education needed to be viewed and treated as a public good as every euro invested yielded a €4 return. Oliva Potter Hughes the President NUS said that after one year of university in Northern Ireland she was £9000 in debt and cautioned that tuition fees had tripled in a year under income contingent loan schemes in the UK. Closing her remarks, she said “They believe that because the students benefits from higher education then they should pay for it. We all benefit from higher education”.

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Students protesting the possibility of income contingent loans at today’s march.

The USI estimated turnout at the march was approximately 20,000 students however official estimates place the figure closer to 5000 attendees. UCD only had approximately 30-40 attendees despite being the largest university in the state. Speaking to the Tribune UCD SU Education Officer Robert Sweeney said that the turnout “was slightly below what was expected, but as a result of the great turnout at the March [for choice] on Saturday we were expecting a limited turnout”. Campaigns and Communications Officer Barry Murphy said that “it’s great to see students so passionate about this issue just before the budget, showing the government needs to support higher education with more funding”.

Speaking before the march SU President Katie Ascough said that they were concerned about turnout for the march for education as a result of it being so close to March for Choice.

Aaron Bowman – Politics Editor