Fianna Fáil Education Spokesperson Thomas Byrne TD has described the Taoiseach’s apparent acceptance of third level classes of over 500 students as outrageous.

Deputy Byrne commented, “In the Dáil today, I gave the example of a university professor who is tasked with teaching 470 first years students in a hall not equipped for this amount. I questioned the Taoiseach about when money would be provided to adequately fund third level. The reply of the Taoiseach essentially amounted to a description of his knowledge of lecture theatres with over 500 students and an apparent acceptance of this.

“This is not good enough. Our universities and their staff have been doing a good job in difficult circumstances. Across higher education, core expenditure for each student is down by 22% since 2011. This has fed directly into the widely reported decline in rankings amongst Irish universities.

“Funding reductions have resulted in a sharp deterioration in the staff / student ratio in universities from 1:15 to 1:19.5. This ratio is a key indicator of the quality of teaching, and compares to an average of 1:14 across the rest of the OECD.

“A strong higher education system is vital in bringing about high quality research and producing the skilled graduates needed to attract investment. Fianna Fáil has been consistently clear that €100 million core funding needs to be invested from general taxation into our higher level institutions, mainly to ensure more teachers and researchers are employed.

“The Taoiseach and the Minister for Education need to understand this too. Judging by his reply today, Enda Kenny simply doesn’t get it”, concluded Deputy Byrne.