USI Latest News
26th September 2016
USI announce their national demo expected to draw 5,000 students
The Union of Students in Ireland announced their national demonstration this morning, Monday, at Stephen’s Green. The national demonstration, which is expected to draw over 5,000 students from across Ireland, will take place on the 19th October. USI are urging students from across the country to contact their local students’ unions if they want to join the demonstration.
At the demonstration, USI will call on the Irish government and the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Education and Skills to make a historic long-term decision and invest in the publicly-funded third level education model as outlined in the Cassells report. USI said that an income-contingent loan scheme is not a viable solution to third level funding as a burden of €20,000+ debt upon graduation will deter people from applying to college. The union emphasised that the financial strain of college spans across all communities and groups including parents, children, staff and teachers – not just students.
The demonstration is supported by members of the Coalition for Publicly Funded Higher Education including SIPTU, IMPACT, TUI, IFUT and the National Youth Council of Ireland who will be joining the march starting at the Garden of Remembrance at 1pm on the 19th October.
“We are calling on parents, teachers, family members, education staff and students to join in our march on the 19thOctober, and to echo the concerns we have on the future of third level education.” Annie Hoey, USI President, said. “The status quo isn’t working. Third level education is unaffordable and our universities are slipping down on the QS World University Rankings. The loan scheme option put forward in the Cassells report is unsustainable. It will increase emigration, saddle young people with a mortgage-modelled debt and widen the gap between the rich and the poor.
“America’s student loan debt ($1tn+) is greater in value than the combined economies of Ireland, New Zealand, and Australia. In other words, American students owe the combined value of all transactions in those countries in a year. Home-ownership in under-40s in New Zealand has drastically fallen since the introduction of student loans, from 57% to 25%.”
Charging no tuition-related fees, Germany has 41 universities that are considered by the Times Higher Education to be among the best in the world. In France, where they have registration fees of under €200, there are 27.
70% of the 2015 college graduates in the UK are not expected to ever repay their college loans, according to The Institute of Fiscal Studies.
USI is urging anyone interested in supporting the demonstration in support of a publicly-funded education on the 19th October to visit www.usi.ie/educationis/.
14th April 2016
USI and the HEA Recommends a change in higher education where students will be involved in decision-making processes
The Union of Students in Ireland and the Higher Education Authority Working Group has recommended that students are more involved in the decision making processes in higher education. USI said that for appropriate developments and progress to be made in higher education students should be involved in the decision-making process because it affects them more than anyone else. The HEA has published a report today of the Working Group on Student Engagement in Higher Education.
The Working Group was established by the HEA in 2014 to develop a set of principles to assist higher education institutions in enhancing student engagement. It was chaired by Professor Tom Collins. Kevin Donoghue, USI President, and Annie Hoey, USI Vice President attended the launch.
“Student engagement plays a pivotal role in academic success.” Kevin Donoghue said. “It enables quality assurance, better retention rates, educational satisfaction and means needs of the students are represented to the government. When students are seen as partners, not consumers, it improves the staff/student relationships and progression in high level education.”
The report of the Working Group recommended that all higher education institutions complete a co-led (staff and student) evaluation of formal and informal student engagement practices and opportunities at every level. Once the self-evaluations are complete, institutions and students should co-author a student engagement policy that places the principles included in the Working Group’s report at the heart of each institution. The principles include: democracy, transparency, inclusivity and diversity, feedback, professionalism and collegiality.
“Achieving successful student engagement is not about enforcement and compliance.” Tom Boland, Chief Executive Officer of the HEA, said. “It’s about building up a meaningful culture and two-way communications. Student participation in higher education governance in Ireland is a legal requirement, but representation on various governance bodies is not sufficient on its own. Both formal and informal mechanisms, as well as parity of esteem between students and staff, are extremely important. The culture of engagement must incorporate all staff and students, and reflect the diversity of the student body, incorporating mature, part-time, distance learning and international students.”
Speakers the launch today (Thursday) included Professor Stuart Brand, Director of Learning Experience at Birmingham City University, and Marese Bermingham, Head of Strategic Student Engagement and Retention at Cork Institute of Technology (CIT).
The full report of the Working Group on Student Engagement, including the principles developed by the group, is available at: http://www.hea.ie/news/working-group-student-engagement
4th April 2016
The Union of Students in Ireland is calling for a change in the way Irish is Taught in School
The Union of Students in Ireland is calling for a change in the way the Irish language is taught at primary, secondary and third level. The union’s annual congress, held from the 21st – 24th March in Ennis, passed the motion that the VP for the Irish Language will direct a study, in collaboration with the relevant Irish language organisations and teachers’ unions, teacher-training colleges, between students, teachers, and others, to publish a collaborative report that would set out a progressive, comprehensive, and multilateral strategy regarding the teaching of Irish at primary and post primary level.
USI spoke about the long-term failures surrounding the teaching of Irish at primary and post primary level, as well as he lack of a united and collaborative effort to find a solution to these failures. Congress condemned the impact that this has had, in the absence of clearly defined policy that would improve the teaching of Irish, which the relevant Irish language and educational groups could support.
“The way Irish is taught in schools isn’t working,” Kevin Donoghue, USI President, said, “There needs to be more of an emphasis on the spoken language. Fluency is best reached through submersion, which is why we’re recommending all students go to the gaeltacht. USI is concerned about the teaching of the Irish language at secondary level in Ireland and noted that many students believe that the Irish language is not “taught as a language” and that too much focus is put on literature instead of the oral practice. Congress believed that the teaching of Irish “as a language” would aid greatly in the enjoyment of the language at secondary level and that students would have a greater degree of fluency in the language leaving secondary level. While congress acknowledges the changes recently made to the Leaving Certificate Irish curriculum which places a greater focus on the spoken element of the course, they mandate that the VP Irish Language should build a strategy for the teaching of the Irish Language at secondary level with a view to having more students confident in the Irish language, with verbal fluency achieved through submersion by time spent in the gaeltacht.”
The Common European Framework for Languages (CEF) provided a guideline as to the proficiency of language learners across Europe which emphasised the importance of the oral side of a language to improving fluency. USI said the changes in the leaving certificate in giving a higher emphasis and ratio in the examination process on the spoken word and the changes in the teaching structure are going in the right direction but need to be improved to be a more attractive subject to students.
“While Irish students across the country are patriotic and proud of their native language, it is not as widely spoken across the Ireland as it should be,” Donoghue said, “Gaeilge is a vibrant expression of our unique national culture, history and identity. The most essential differentiating characteristics of a culture are oftentimes contained within its language. Gaeilge, therefore, plays a paramount, pivotal role in the Irish cultural identity and it is a cherished core of all that is truly Irish. USI acknowledges how vital it is for us to do everything we can to preserve, nurture and extend the Irish language to students across Ireland. Because of this, we voted in Congress in favour of the Vice President for the Irish Language to lobby the department of Education and Skills to implement the CEF guidelines in relation to the examination of the Irish language at post-primary level.”
30th March 2016
USI joins Amnesty International outside the Dáil to call on the Government to Repeal the 8th
The Union of Students in Ireland joined Amnesty International outside the Dáil at 1pm yesterday, Tuesday the 29thMarch to call on the government to repeal the Eight Amendment. It was the first day of a two week demonstration calling on political parties and politicians to ensure abortion reform is not lost in
negotiations in forming a new government. Standing with travel suitcases and bags to represent the 12 women and teenagers who travel to Britain every day for abortions, their demand is that the seriousness of the situation and urgency for a referendum is not ignored
A recent Amnesty International and Red C Research & Markets poll found that 80% of people would vote yes if a referendum were held, and 87% of the public want access to abortion expanded. Every day for the next twelve weeks, 12 people will join the vigil outside Leinster House. The increasing numbers will remind political leaders of the amount of women anti-abortion laws negatively affect when they are forced into temporary exile from Ireland to access their human rights day after day, week after week.
“USI has been pro-choice and campaigning for Irish abortion services since the early 80s. We are proud to stand alongside and fully support Amnesty International in this campaign.” Union of Students in Ireland President, Kevin Donoghue, said, “We are urging the next Government to repeal the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013 as a matter of utmost urgency and replace it with laws that legalise free, safe and legal abortions in Ireland, at a minimum, in cases of rape, incest, risk to health or fatal foetal impairment; and to repeal the Regulation of Information (Services Outside the State for the Termination of Pregnancies) Act 1995 and any related censorship laws. Legalising abortions in Ireland is critical to advancing gender equality, human rights and the position of women in Irish society. USI is calling on the next government to put this to a referendum and let the Irish people decide.”
“It has been over a month since the election and we still do not have a government.” Colm O’Gorman, Executive Director of Amnesty International, said. “Over the next two weeks, efforts towards forming a government will ramp up. We will be here during lunchtime every day of those two weeks to demand that repealing the Eighth Amendment is on the table during those discussions. Today, we represent the 12 women and girls who we know will make the journey to the UK for an abortion. This doesn’t include the countless others who don’t give Irish addresses, or who travel to other countries. Each day for the next two weeks, the number of people demonstrating will increase by 12. The parties to the negotiations need to recognise that women will not stop travelling for abortions, and this issue will not be going away, during their time in government. A new government, whatever its composition, must not turn its back on the human rights of women and girls here in Ireland.”
29th March 2016
USI Partners With gradireland #FYI Event
gradireland partnered with the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) and the Association of Higher Education Careers Services (AHECS) respond to concerns from students on their employability prospects.
Latest gradireland research (conducted by international research company trendence) reveals that over 62% of Ireland’s students are “worried about their future career” and only 61% believe that their course provides them “with the right skills for the labour market”.
On 12 April at the RDS, gradireland #FYI will actively seek to address the key area of ‘employability skills’ at a unique, experiential Careers Showcase. Register on Eventbrite now:http://www.eventbrite.ie/e/
“USI is delighted to be on board with the #FYI event,” Kevin Donoghue, USI President, said, “Its aim is increase awareness of the many career paths available to students and to broaden their minds, and, in turn, their horizons, by forward-planning and thinking about their future careers. USI is always happy to be involved in projects like these, such as the Student Summit and the Grad Fair. We welcome opportunities which focus on the future of the students in Ireland.”
gradireland #FYI is a ground-breaking initiative designed to enable students to understand their career options and to help them make better-informed career decisions. Developed in partnership with AHECS, gradireland #FYI has created a series of videos with recent graduates demystifying some of the jargon around modern careers; telling students what working in various sectors is really like; and detailing the skills they’ll need to be successful. This practical, straight-talking advice is backed up by careerpath graphics, showing students exactly where their skills can take them, providing much-needed aspiration and inspiration during what can be a daunting time for students.
Alongside the #FYI video and graphic content, the gradireland #FYI Careers Showcase event will feature live interactive workshops and one-to-one advice from careers experts for students.
gradireland #FYI also commissioned trendence to conduct research on graduate employers’ attitudes towards the work-readiness of Irish graduates. 50% of employers anticipate difficulty filling graduate roles in 2016; and of these, 52% cited “a lack of candidates with the right employability skills” as the number one reason.
Students will also be able to meet with over 40 major employers to hear first-hand what opportunities exist for Ireland’s students; what skills they will need to access these opportunities; and what are the best ways of developing these skills during college. “This event’s aim is to increase awareness of the many career paths available to students and to broaden their minds, and in turn, their horizon, by forward-planning and thinking about their future careers”, says USI President, Kevin Donoghue.
Patrick Guiney was a student who experienced first-hand the need for better information around course choice and career pathways. His experiences led him to establish the Slingshot Academy, which is supported by gradireland. “I hadn’t really done my research before starting my course” said Guiney. “ There isn’t really a solid knowledge bridge from second to third level, or from third level to the world of work, so it’s really important that initiatives like the Slingshot Academy and gradireland #FYI exist to help students think about their career choices from an early stage.”
gradireland #FYI meets a clear need for early-stage career engagement for Ireland’s students, educational institutions and employers.
Supporting careers to reduce College dropout rates
Recent HEA data shows that 6,414 students dropped out of their first year courses at third level institutions across Ireland between 2012 and 2014. Ironically, many of the courses in sectors being championed by government and employer groups to meet the skills shortage in the Irish economy suffer higher-than-average dropout rates – about one third of computer science students across all ITs drop their course before the end of their first year.
“Many students complete their journey through higher education but regret their degree subject choice; 16% of students drop their course in first year; and over 20% of students graduate with no clear idea of what they want to do career-wise. Many factors contribute to these statistics but there is no doubt that initiatives to promote early engagement with students are a strategic priority for HE institutions.”
Brendan Baker, Chairman of AHECS and Head of Careers, Maynooth University
“The jobs market is coming back, but not as it existed pre-recession. There are more diverse careers and career paths than ever before; and for all students graduating into this modern economy, new skills are required.
The gradireland #FYI Careers Showcase advises students on the skills they will need (and shows them how to acquire them) in order to help them decide what they want to do, and to get their career off to the best possible start when they graduate.”
Annie Hoey elected to lead USI
Annie Hoey, currently Deputy President of USI and Vice President for Equality and Citizenship, has been elected to lead the organisation for the 2016-17 term.
Hoey, from Beamore, Drogheda and a graduate of University College, Cork, was elected on the third day of the organisation’s annual Congress.
Speaking after the result, Hoey said:
“I want to thank all the students who voted for me – my goal for the year is to lead a united student movement who will come together to tackle issues like funding of and access to higher and further education, quality of courses and fairness in our society.
I’m committed to putting equality and social inclusion at the heart of our agenda for the year ahead – working constructively but critically with whichever government eventually emerges to make sure the student voice is not just loud and united, but heard and respected.
I want to pay tribute to Kevin Donoghue, the president whose shoes I will have to fill in July – and to the students and officers who’ve inspired me and made me want to seek election. I hope to do justice to what they’ve taught me and the faith they’ve shown in me.”
The USI Officer Board (Excluding NUS-USI President, who is yet to be elected) for 2016-17 is as follows:
Annie Hoey – President (UCC)
Dan Waugh – VP Campaigns (UCC, DIT)
Jack Leahy – VP Academic Affairs (TCD)
Cian Power – VP Welfare (UCC)
Síona Cahill – VP Equality and Citizenship (MSU)
Mike Kerrigan – VP Border, Midland and Western Region (GNMIT)
Niamh Murtagh – VP Southern Region (IT Tralee)
22nd February 2016
USI Welcomes Wage Increase Coming into Effect for Student Nurses and Midwives
Health, PNA, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, independent facilitator Mr Sean McHugh, and HSE, with supporting research done by USI to increase wages for students’ nurses and midwives. Recent research by USI found that 93% of student nurses have thought about emigrating when they qualify. USI are hopeful that this number will decrease once the pay increases come into effect on the 1st March. Student nurses and midwives are currently paid below the minimum wage at a rate of €6.49 an hour.
“USI welcomes the action by the government to relieve the strain on financially crippled student nurses,” Kevin Donoghue, Union of Students in Ireland President, said, “I read about one nursing student who was paid just €374 after tax for working 114 hours in three weeks, which equates to a mere €3.28 an hour. This change in the wage increase means that student nurses and midwives a more secure financial position.”
The current hourly rate for the first 12 weeks is €6.86. This will be changed to €9.48 – an increase of €2.62. The current hourly rate for the second 12 weeks is €7.32. This will be changed to €9.48 – an increase of €2.16. The current hourly rate for the final 12 weeks is €8.24. This will be changed to €9.48 – an increase of €1.24.
“What this means for the current nursing and midwifery students is that those currently on placement will have the new rate applied, from the 1st March 2016,” Donoghue said, “Those currently in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd year will have the increased rate applied for the duration of the placement.”
“While we are happy at the progress made, we are disappointed that the same incremental credit could not be applied to those who have qualified since 2011; and from whom it was removed, but acknowledge that the Department of Public expenditure and Reform has agreed to set up a review of the effects of the reduction of this incremental credit on the ability of the Health Services to retain and recruit qualifying nurses and Midwives.” Phil Ni Sheaghdha, the Director of Industrial Relations at the INMO, said. “There is a lot more work to be done for student nurses and midwives. The unions are completely committed to fully engaging with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and the Department of Health in order to secure incremental credit for these categories of nurses, to ensure they receive the same benefit as those qualifying in 2016.”
The proposals arrived at involve the following as of the 1st March 2016 –
- The restoration of pay for students on 36 week placement directly linked to the staff nurse rate of pay
- The rate to be set is at 70% of the staff nurse rate of pay
- Incremental credit of €2014 will apply on graduation once 16 weeks of work has been fulfilled, for the entire period, together with the immediate post-graduation/ pre-registration period while you await registration with NMBI
- Permanent contracts will be offered on graduation
- Incremental credit will be reviewed for all nurses/ midwives who trained in Ireland since 2011 and who were not afforded incremental credit for the 36 week internship.
15th February 2016
USI launches its #MakeASmartVote road show, visiting 16 college campuses across Ireland encouraging Students to Vote.
The Union of Students in Ireland launched its #MakeASmartVote road show this morning outside Trinity College at 9am and will visit a total of 16 college campuses between now and the 25th February before the general election, encouraging students to vote and telling them what the main parties are promising students and young people in their manifestos, and urging them to vote for a party that prioritises education. The road show will visit all major colleges over the next ten days, including NUIG, UCC, DCU and Maynooth.
Young people in Ireland understand that their vote is their voice. We are engaging with young people through social media and on our road shows, encouraging them to use their vote wisely.” Kevin Donoghue, President of the Union of Students in Ireland, said, “We expect to see a huge percentage of students voting in the General Election. Irish students have experienced the positive effects of using their vote during the Marriage Referendum and since then have become extremely politically aware with a real hunger for progression and change.”
On Monday 15th USI will visit Trinity and Maynooth University. On Tuesday 16th they will visit Athlone and DKIT. On Wednesday 17th they will visit Sligo and LYIT. On Thursday 18th they will visit GMIT and NUIG. On Monday 22nd they will visit Tralee and Waterford. On Tuesday 23rd they will visit UCC and CIT. On Wednesday 24th USI will visit DCU, and on Thursday 25th they will visit DIT, IADT and ITT.
“A voting group of people is an empowered group of people and it is extremely important for USI to empower students.” Donoghue said, “We hope that young people across Ireland will engage with this General Election by using their vote and having their voice heard. The main concerns of students across Ireland are student support – an increase in the maintenance grants and a reduction in the registration fee – and that a loan scheme is not brought in to replace the grant scheme.”
12th February 2016
Union of Students in Ireland (USI) and the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching & Learning in Higher Education today launched the 2016 “Teaching Hero Awards”. The awards are a collaborative effort of the Forum and USI.
The Teaching Hero Award is the only student-led national teaching award in Ireland. This year’s theme of “Inspiring and Innovating” asks students to identify third-level teachers who have engaged with new ideas and practices to enhance their learning experience.
The inaugural awards in 2014 saw students and staff from every higher education institution in the country share a platform to celebrate student-nominated teaching excellence.
At the time of writing, the students’ unions of 33 higher education institutions have signed up to take part in the 2016 awards, incorporating Ireland’s universities, institutes of technology, colleges of education and private colleges.
9th February 2016
USI launches their SHAG week campaign to promote getting tested and consent as figures show a rise in STIs and sexual assaults.
The Union of Students in Ireland launched its SHAG week campaign across the country in 6 different colleges (NUIG, NCI, IT Carlow, GMIT, DKIT and IADT) this week with two key messages – to get tested and to ask for consent, after a survey published in December 2015 showed an increase of STIs in Ireland by 4% and the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre reported an increase in rapes and sexual assaults.
The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre said the victims of recent rape and sexual assault went up to 303 in 2015, from 221 in 2014, but only 1 in 10 are reported. This figure is only for the Rotunda hospital where the sexual assault treatment unit (SATU) is located which covers the Dublin and Leinster area. There are 6 units in the country – Dublin, Cork, Galway, Donegal, Limerick and Mullingar.
The report showing the increase in STIs in Ireland was published 2nd Dec 2015 by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre and the HSE. This report was prepared by Gillian Cullen and Dr Derval Igoe and showed that in 2014, there were 12,626 notifications of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) in Ireland, an increase of 4% compared to 2013. The most commonly diagnosed STI was Chlamydia, with 6,695 notifications in 2014. The burden of STIs remains greatest among those aged 15 – 24 year olds.
“USI’s SHAG week campaign has two core messages – for students and young people to go get tested and to ask for consent.” Kevin Donoghue, President of the Union of Students in Ireland, said, “We are reminding students that they must look after their sexual health. This means getting tested regularly and using condoms and dental dams to protect themselves from the risk of contracting an STI. Getting tested is quick, painless and usually free! The reported increase in rapes and sexual assaults in Ireland is very worrying. Research shows that only 1 in 10 cases are reported. What’s even more worrying is this figure is for the Rotunda hospital alone.”
USI is delighted to have organizations such as SpunOut, HIV Irland, Aids West and Well Woman Centre onboard for the 2016 SHAG week.
“We want to open up dialogue and provide students with the language and information that is needed in relation to sexual consent.” Donoghue said, “Initiatives such as the proposed consent workshops in Trinity College Dublin are very important in empowering young people and changing attitudes about what is and is not appropriate behaviour for all students.”
“The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre commends USI for their initiatives in the area of prevention of sexual violence through their campaigns, particularly the Say Something and #AskConsent Campaigns during SHAG week.” Ellen O’Malley Dunlop, CEO of the DRCC, said “We hope they get the support they need from both the college authorities and from the students themselves. The recent conversations about sexual consent and the need for on-going age-related programmes from early childhood to third level institutions are very welcome.”
6th February 2016
The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) launch the ‘Everyone Loves Nurses’ campaign
The Union of Students in Ireland (USI), student representatives and student nurses gathered outside Dáil Éireann today (Thursday 6th February) at 11.30 am to launch the ‘Everyone Loves Nurses’ campaign. The launch is taking place ahead of a larger demonstration that will take place in a fortnight at the HSE.
The starting salary for newly graduated nurses is now €22,000, a drop of €4,000 from the past starting salary of €26,000. The same graduate nurses can earn far more abroad, up to €43,614 in Canada.
When student nurses are interning they earn €6.49 per hour for the duration of the 9 month intern-ship, this works out as 50% of the starting graduate salary. In previous years this used to be 80% of the starting salary.
USI and student nurses from across the country are telling Minister James Reilly, who previously said they can “emigrate or work in a fast food service if unhappy”, that they’ve had enough.
USI President Joe O’Connor said: “The message to Minister Reilly today is loud and clear; change the starting salary level back to €26,000 for newly graduated nurses.
This drop in starting salary is actively encouraging young graduate nurses to emigrate. Our hospitals need nurses to stay in Ireland to work. Understaffing is already a massive issue in the healthcare sector; conditions need to change now, starting with increasing the starting wage. Everyone has a right to a living wage, especially hard working nurses”.
2nd February 2016
USI launch the ‘Say Something’ card after survey shows that 16% of Students experience unwanted sexual experience
The Union of Students in Ireland will launch the ‘Say Something’ card in R Block, IT Tralee at 1pm on Tuesday the 2ndFebruary. The ‘Say Something’ card was developed by USI from research funded by Cosc and the Department of Justice and Equality. The research examined students’ experiences of sexual violence and harassment while in college and found that 16% of students experienced an unwanted sexual experience.
The survey was completed by 2,590 Irish students and 162 International Students. 11 per cent of the Women who responded noted that they had been subject to unwanted sexual contact. In addition to that, 5 per cent of Women recorded that they were the victims of rape and a further 3 per cent were victims of attempted rape. In over six in ten cases (61% for Women, 68% for Men) the perpetrator was believed to be under the influence of alcohol.
“We hope that these statistics will shed new light on the area of violence, including physical and sexual harassment.” Kevin Donoghue, President of the Union of Students in Ireland, said “We hope this card will be an aid to students who find themselves in the position where they’re victims of violence and don’t know what to do next. We want to reverse the culture of victim blaming in Ireland and instead of blaming the victim, we want to help, support and empower them.”
There were a large proportion of victims who did not report these incidents because they were ashamed or embarrassed (29 per cent); because they thought that they would be blamed for what happened (22 per cent); or because they did not want their parents or family to find out (21 per cent).
The card is designed to provide information for students should they find themselves in a situation where sexual violence or assault has occurred. 30,000 of the cards will be delivered to students’ unions across the country over the coming weeks.
“USI are delighted to launch the Say Something cards to raise awareness of the supports available to students who experience violence.” Annie Hoey, Deputy President of USI, said, “USI also trains Students’ Unions around these issues to equip them on how to best support students. The cards will have all the information a student needs after they’ve been sexually or physically assaulted and we hope to see an increase in the number of reported incidents. According to the DRCC only 1 in 10 rapes are reported. There are a lot of different reasons for this but we hope these cards will give students the information and support they need.”
Further Survey Results –
- 11 per cent of the Women who responded noted that they had been subject to unwanted sexual contact.
- In addition, 5 per cent of Women recorded that they were the victims of rape and a further 3 per cent were victims of attempted rape.
- A significantly lower proportion of Men reported similar experiences with less that 1 per cent reporting either rape or attempted rape.
- 16 per cent of students reported having experienced some form of unwanted sexual experience while in their current educational institution.
- Of these, 38 per cent of students reported that these unwanted sexual experiences had occurred on more than one occasion and 36 per cent noted that the unwanted sexual experience that they reported had occurred either ‘several times’ or ‘many times’.
- When asked for explanations of why they did not report matters to the Gardaí the two most frequent responses were (i) that they did not believe the incident was serious enough to report (57 per cent); and (ii) that they did not think that what happened was a crime (44 per cent)
Link to the ‘Say Something’ survey can be found here.
2nd February 2016
The Union of Students in Ireland Stands in Solidarity with the Teachers’ Union of Ireland on their Strike over Underfunding
The Union of Students in Ireland is standing in solidarity with the Teachers’ Union of Ireland who are taking industrial action on February 3rd and striking because of underfunding in the sector. USI said that underfunding ITs and understaffing classes will have a negative effect on students.
Institutes of technology will face the threat of ongoing disruption as a result of industrial action by academic staff concerned over cuts to third-level funding and staffing numbers.
“Understaffed classes and underfunded Institutes of Technology mean a poorer standard of teaching and in turn a poorer standard of learning.” Kevin Donoghue, USI President, said, “USI stands in solidarity with TUI in their strike and are hoping for a positive outcome to the action. The rapid rises in student numbers combined with the cuts in lecturer numbers, as well as the unstable employment contracts for many lecturers have forced the TUI to take action
Members of the Teachers’ Union of Ireland – which represents 4,000 lecturers and researchers – are due to stage a one-day strike on Wednesday, February 3rd, as part of a campaign to highlight underfunding of the sector. Last December, the union’s third-level members voted in a national ballot by a margin of 92 per cent in favour of a campaign of industrial action up to and including strike action.
Annette Dolan, the TUI’s deputy general secretary, said the sector had been battered by an era of anti-educational cutbacks. Funding has been cut by 35 per cent between 2008 and 2015. During this time, student numbers had risen by some 32 per cent. Lecturer numbers, meanwhile, fell by almost 10 per cent over the same period.
“This has had a direct effect on the quality of service to students and the working conditions of academics,” Annette Dolan said.”Students now face larger class sizes, reduced access to laboratories and libraries and sharp cuts to tutorials and other student supports.”
USI is also stressing that the cuts to support services means more vulnerable students are at a higher risk of dropping out of college.
26th January 2016
The Union of Students in Ireland, with support from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and American Ambassador to Ireland, Kevin O’Malley, launched the J1 Guide 2016 this morning, the 26th January, outside Leinster House at 8:30am. The guide offers advice to students on how to find a job, secure accommodation and make the most of their opportunity to experience the American way of life.
“USI and the Department of Foreign Affairs have produced this guide to working and living in America under the J1 visa”, Kevin Donoghue, USI President, said. “It includes tips on staying safe and planning the J1 trip of a lifetime, while being a good ambassador for Ireland and showing the best example to American citizens of how Ireland is today.”
USI are advising students who want to take part in the J1 programme this year to sign up early so that they have time to organise a job in advance. The main Irish J1 agents are currently running placement programmes to help students secure a summer job in the US. “We’re urging students to get involved now with the job placement process so they can take up the roles that are on offer”, Donoghue said. “Once students have a job secured, they’ll have all the hard work done and be able to look forward to a great summer in the US.”
Speaking in advance of the launch, Minister Jimmy Deenihan said:
“The J1 Summer Work and Travel programme has played an extremely positive role in building US-Irish links over the past 50 years. The Government’s focus is on maximising student participation in the J1 programme in 2016 and beyond. I am pleased that the Department is in a position to support USI in the production of this excellent and informative guide. I strongly encourage students wishing to apply for this year’s summer J1 to engage with the process now so that they can meet the requirements of the programme and go on to have a great experience in the US.”
USI is also encouraging students interested in the J1 to arrange accommodation before they travel, but to make sure they are dealing with a legitimate rental agency or landlord. Companies offering J1 visas will give further advice on places to stay. USI is also advising students not to sign a lease unless they’ve read and understood it all, never pay by cash if possible and get a receipt.
“Since its launch in 1966 the J-1 Summer Work Travel (SWT) program has welcomed 150,000 of Ireland’s best and brightest young people to the United States,” said U.S. Ambassador to Ireland Kevin O’Malley. “With the recent changes, the U.S. government is working with applicants, Irish government representatives, and independent U.S. and Irish implementing institutions to ensure that Irish students continue to benefit from the J-1 program just as they have in the past. The key to success with this latest change is for students to be proactive. We encourage all J-1 participants to plan ahead and register early for the job fairs. Even as some aspects of the J-1 program evolve and change, the cultural exchange and entrepreneurial spirit at the heart of the program remain exactly the same. The J-1 experience will continue to be a life-changing one that connects the next generation of Irish and Americans and strengthens the bonds of friendship between our two countries.”
The guide is available online at: http://bit.ly/1KuzS5p
11th January 2016
USI Launches its General Election Manifesto, focusing on Accommodation, Higher Education Funding and Repealing the 8th
The Union of Students in Ireland launched their General Election manifesto outside the Dáil on 11th January, emphasising how young people will have a deciding impact on the makeup of the next government, focusing on areas like accommodation, Higher Education Funding and Repealing the 8th.
“The 32nd Dáil has the opportunity to introduce real and lasting change for all our citizens.” Kevin Donoghue, Union of Students in Ireland President, said, “100 years on from 1916 we can build an Ireland our children and our parents will be proud of. An Ireland where workers are paid the living wage, there is a right to full bodily autonomy and every person is treated with the dignity and respect that they deserve. Ireland has gone through significant change in the last five years. Austerity has taken its toll on almost every group in society. The impact of harsh and often brutal cuts must be accepted and those responsible must now ensure that it is our most vulnerable who see the fruits of our recovery. In the past two years alone, USI has registered 80,000 new students to vote. USI and Students Unions will be making sure that young people vote in the next election.”
“Young people want candidates and political parties to demonstrate leadership that befits the positions they seek and to map out a clear path to a strong, sustainable future.” Annie Hoey, USI Deputy President, said, “Education from early years to post-doctorate is not just a right but key to economic growth. As a nation we are particularly reliant on a highly educated workforce for growth. An educated society is a major attraction for foreign direct investment coming into Ireland. A highly skilled and well-educated workforce is a benefit to everyone in Ireland. The next Government should seek to follow the example of most of our EU partners and introduce free, publicly-funded education.”
In the manifesto, USI urges the next Government to reject any proposal to increase third-level fees and/or the introduction an income-contingent loan scheme. The proposed income-contingent loan scheme fails to bring state and enterprise contributions to a sustainable level. Income-contingent student loan schemes have failed to deliver the promised efficiencies in Australia and the UK. In Australia, the federal government is out of pocket to the tune of $70 billion owing to default, emigration and slower-than-expected repayment. In the UK, the loan system cost the government so much that they had to sell the loan books.
“USI wants an education system that is free of both financial and societal barriers.” Donoghue said “Failure to adequately invest in education is a failure to invest in society.”
In the General Election Student manifesto, USI also focuses on repealing the 8th and urges the next Government to commit to holding a referendum on repealing Article 40.3.3 (the Eighth Amendment) of Bunreacht na hÉireann. USI urges the next Government to repeal the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013 and replace it with laws that ensure safe and legal access to abortion, at a minimum, in cases of rape, incest, risk to health or severe and fatal foetal impairment. USI also urges the next Government to repeal the Regulation of Information (Services Outside the State for the Termination of Pregnancies) Act 1995 and any related censorship laws.
The manifesto also focuses on student accommodation and is urging the next Government to prepare a further short-term solution, such as the use of NAMA-owned properties to temporarily address the student accommodation shortfall; and to amend part 3 of the Residential Tenancies Act 2004 to include a provision that allows for students’ unions or other representative bodies to have legal standing to challenge on behalf of their membership the introduction of new rents in purpose-built student accommodation centres, where those rents are raised outside of term time.
USI joins forces with the Teachers’ Union of Ireland and launches ‘I Value Higher Education’ Petition
The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) has joined forces with the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) as part of its #EducationIs coalition to campaign against the erosion of the publicly funded higher education system, and safeguard higher education for the next generation. The ‘I Value Higher Education’ campaign invites students, their families and teachers to sign the petition on http://chn.ge/1R6NBXz
“USI is proud to join with TUI on the ‘I Value Higher Education’ campaign which seeks to promote the value of higher education in Irish society.” Kevin Donoghue, USI President, said. “The campaign acknowledges higher education as a central function within the social, cultural and economic fabrics of Irish society. It recognises the contribution already made to the Irish economic growth and social development through the provision of publicly-funded higher education; promotes free higher education as a public good; calls for equality of access to higher education opportunities and the provision of clear progression routes to enable lifelong learning; and advocates for the resourcing of a higher education infrastructure which can best meet contemporary national and international challenges and demands.”
Today, the Irish state funds 14 institutes of technology, seven universities and six colleges. While the public higher education sector has expanded to meet growing demand, funding has not kept pace with this development. Regrettably, it has decreased significantly. In the last seven years funding in the higher education sector was cut by 32% (over €428.3m).
Aidan Kenny, Assistant General Secretary at TUI, welcomed the joint campaign by USI and TUI in support of free publically funded higher education. “It is vital that students and lecturers work together to achieve the aim of free quality higher education which is accessible to all.” Kenny said “Higher education as a public good should be funded collectively by society through general taxation, corporation tax and a higher education levy. The market model of student loan schemes is not appropriate; it places an unacceptable individual debt burden on students and commodifies higher education into a product which can be sold.”
The magnitude of the funding cut over a relatively short period of time is having a profound impact on the sector’s capacity to function. In addition to the budget cuts, student tuition fees for undergraduate programmes have increased to €3,000 per year. The new proposed student loan scheme would deter students from applying to college and place a significant individualised debt on each student when they graduate and commence their careers.
The demand for places in the higher education sector has grown considerably, with an increase in student numbers of up 20% between 2008 and 2014. Presently, there are just over 200,000 students attending higher education programs (undergraduate and post-graduate) in the Republic of Ireland. At the same time, staffing levels have been reduced by 2,000 between 2008 and 2015. The funding cuts, rising student numbers and reduced staffing levels are pushing the higher education system to breaking point. The established quality and standards of the Irish publicly funded higher education system are being put at risk. If the current situation prevails much longer, irreparable damage will be done to the educational future of the next generation.
As the general election approaches, the ‘I Value Higher Education’ campaign invites people to raise higher education as an issue with candidates when they canvass and sign the online petition to campaign against the erosion of the Irish publicly funded higher education system, and safeguard higher education for the next generation on – http://chn.ge/1R6NBXz
10th December 2015
USI is fully supporting Amnesty International and standing in solidarity with Ibrahim Halawa. Please join us today and assemble outside the Amnesty International offices on Fleet Street in Temple Bar at 5:30pm and add your voice to the call for Ibrahim’s immediate and unconditional release. Tomorrow, on the 11th December, two days before Ibrahim’s 20th birthday (he was 17 when he was first imprisoned), USI will be running a #FreeIbrahim campaign in campuses across Ireland. Please take a picture of yourself with a ‘Happy Birthday Ibrahim’ postcard, share it on social media, sign it, attach a stamp to it and send it to the Irish Embassy (address is printed on the back) to call for Ibrahim’s immediate and unconditional release.
USI standS in solidarity with Ibrahim because…
Ibrahim Halawa is a 19 year old Irish citizen imprisoned for taking refuge in Egypt. He is an Amnesty International Prisoner of Conscience. He is from Firhouse in Dublin. In August 2013, Ibrahim and his three sisters went to a protest in Cairo following the violent dispersal by security forces of two sit-ins in Cairo and other protests across Egypt which left up to 1,000 people dead in a single day.
When the protest turned violent they took refuge in a nearby mosque. At least 97 people were killed as a result of reckless use of force by the Egyptian security forces. On 17 August 2013, they were all arrested and taken to prison.
His sisters have been released on bail but Ibrahim is still in jail in Cairo over two years later. Amnesty International has conducted a thorough investigation of the case and are determined that Ibrahim is innocent. The alleged incidents took place at the minaret entrance to the Al Fath mosque. Ibrahim and his sisters were all locked in the inner part of the mosque where they fled to try and escape the security forces’ gunfire. He could not possibly have committed the crimes he has been charged with because he wasn’t there.
Ibrahim is a prisoner of conscience, imprisoned solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression and assembly. Ibrahim will be tried with 493 people, including 11 children. This mass trial cannot possibly be fair. The defendants allowed to be present in court cannot adequately participate in the proceedings. A huge percentage of the witnesses due to be called in the trial are police officers or government officials.
The European Union has criticised Egypt’s ‘selective justice’ and called for fair and timely trials. Recently, Egyptian courts have been handing out mass death sentences based on little evidence and following deeply flawed trial proceedings. The mass trial has been repeatedly delayed. Ibrahim Halawa has now been imprisoned for over two years.
Ibrahim was shot in the hand and never received medical attention, except from a cellmate who happened to be a doctor. His time in prison, far away from his homeland of Ireland, has been both physically and mentally difficult. There are reports that he has been beaten in prison.
Ibrahim should have started university this year furthering his dreams of becoming a pilot or an engineer. His plans have all been put on hold, and instead of college life, he finds himself sitting in a jail cell in Egypt for over two years. USI stands in solidarity with Ibrahim and are calling on the Irish embassy to help bring him home. #FreeIbrahim
3rd December 2015
USI welcomes the New Law Protecting LGBT Teachers and Medics
The Union of Students in Ireland today said the amendment to the Employment Equality Bill is progressive in equality, dignity and inclusion. Before yesterday, the 2nd of December, teachers and medics at religious institutions could be dismissed if their sexuality conflicted with the religious ethos of the school or hospital.
The Employment Equality Bill (Miscellaneous Provisions) 2013, the new law to amend the controversial Section 37 provisions, came into effect yesterday on the 2nd of December, meaning teachers and medical staff won’t fear adverse treatment as a result of being open about their sexuality in the workplace.
“USI welcomes the amendment to section 37.1 of the Employment Equality Act.” Union of Students in Ireland president, Kevin Donoghue, said, “Putting anyone in a position where they feel they need to conceal their sexuality to keep their job compromises their dignity, equality and inclusion. The amendment to section 37.1 strengthens employment protection for teachers and medical staff in the LGBT community.”
9th November 2015
Chats for Change Campaign Launched to Help Students Feeling Down
More than a third of Irish Students feel down every day and most of them find comfort in food, according to new information released today by the Union of Students in Ireland. 36% of students feel down every day and the most common thing they do when feeling down is eat chocolate, cakes, crisps or ‘treat’ foods.
83% of students said talking to someone helped when they’re feeling down, which is why the USI is launching their ‘Chats for Change’ campaign with Please Talk and St Patrick’s Mental Health Services, between November 9 and 13, urging third level students to talk about mental health while enjoying a cup of tea with someone. Thousands of tea packs will be distributed across college campuses nationwide which will also include tips on how to start conversations about mental health and useful support service contacts.
The ‘Chats for Change’ Campus Road show will run from 10am-3pm from November 9 to 13 in campuses across Ireland such as DIT, Maynooth, Athlone IT, CIT and UCC.
“More than a third of students regularly feeling down is an alarming percentage.” Kevin Donoghue, Union of Students in Ireland president, said “It shows the fragility of the mind when it’s faced with multiple strains such as exam and financial stresses. We are urging students to talk about their problems, anxieties or strains to someone. People should be conscious of how they react to their friends’ mental health, because belittling the problem is extremely damaging to those suffering from anxiety or depression, as the statistics show.”
20% of students said the worst thing someone can say to them when they’re feeling down is “man up!” while 18.3% of students said “cheer up!” is the worst.
“393 young people under the age of 30 committed suicide last year.” Donoghue said, “43% of students said the worst part of feeling down is feeling isolated and hopeless with low self-esteem. We want to change these feelings. The Chats for Change campaign aims to change the stigma around mental health and encourage anyone feeling down to get into the habit of talking about it.”
21st September 2015
The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) officially launched their healthy living campaign ‘Eat Well, Live Well’ in conjunction with SpunOut.ie on IT Sligo campus today to support students in their transition to college for the academic year.
When students arrive into college, they are faced with a tight budget as a result of a cut in the grant and an increase in transport, accommodation and education overall. We aim to support students through the Eat Well, Live Well campaign by highlighting that they can cook healthy meals and a small budget and with the utensils typically found in a student accommodation” says Kevin Donoghue, President of the Union of Students in Ireland.
“Over the past number of years it’s clear that transitions out of home for young people can be challenging. What we’re also seeing is an increase in obesity amongst children and a huge rise in health risk factors amongst young people. SpunOut.ie’s campaign aims to equip young people, where they are, with the tools to make easy health choices” says Ian Power, executive director of SpunOut.ie.
18th September 2015
Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald, launched the national campaign on Friday September 18that 9.30am at DRCC Offices, 70 Lower Leeson Street Dublin 2.
Dublin Rape Crisis Centre has teamed up with sister RCCs, the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) and the White Ribbon Campaign to raise awareness on the issue of sexual consent. The Ask Consent campaign is a three week long national public awareness raising campaign funded by Cosc, The National Office for the Prevention of Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence and developed and delivered by the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre. This is an educational campaign and our aim is to get people talking, and to ask the all important question, have you asked him/her if they wanted to have sex. #AskConsent
We want this campaign to encourage conversations across the country, at dinner tables, in college campuses, in bars and restaurants, on radio and television shows, about what consent means in the context of having sex with another person and that Sex without Consent is Rape.