Following media speculation that Minister for Education & Skills Ruairi Quinn is considering introducing a cap on student numbers in Higher Education, the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) has warned the Government there could be dire consequences of suc

USI President Gary Redmond warned that any introduction of a cap would have disastrous consequences on economic recovery. Recent CSO figures indicate that over 14.4% of the population is currently on the live register but USI has repeatedly reminded Government that the true extend of the crisis is being masked by historically high emigration figures.

The Union President argues that a cap on student numbers will inevitably lead to a surge in the points required for many courses in the CAO system and will add to the pressure facing Leaving Cert. students and their families.

USI President, Gary Redmond said,

“Participation rates in the Irish Higher Education system are the envy of the world. Almost 6 out of 10 school leavers go on to third level education and we have an ambitious but achievable target of increasing this to 72% in the coming years.

We consistently hear the Government talking about fostering a smart, knowledge-based economy and the state agencies encourage the unemployed to re-skill to increase their employment opportunities. However, by capping student numbers in Higher Education the Minister is forcing people across the country to emigrate or sentencing them to long periods of unemployment – destroying many families and entire communities.

I am again calling on the Minister and both Government parties to stand by their pre-election promises on education and to ensure that education is protected in Budget 2012.

An investment in education is an investment in Ireland’s future. Every single cent of investment is repaid time and time again through economic growth.

Since the election in February, the minister has come out and said the fiscal situation was much worse than he thought prior to taking office - that’s absolute nonsense and pure spin. The report of the Higher Education Group outlined the challenges facing education and published long before the election campaign kicked off. Michael Noonan and Joan Burton repeatedly stated that their party’s manifestos were fully costed – both had access to the Department of Finance in the run-up to the election.

Any U-turn on the part of the minister would strongly suggest that pre-election promises on education were simply a cynical play to students and families to garner their votes.”