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Harris: Budget measures "direct recognition" of student hardship

Harris: Budget measures "direct recognition" of student hardship

Higher Education Minister Simon Harris has said that measures taken in Budget 2023 are in “direct recognition” of the struggles students are facing.

That is despite today’s protest at which thousands of students argued that the government isn’t doing enough to alleviate pressures of the cost of living crisis.

The Minister told The Hard Shoulder about his plans to build more accommodation and provide more funding for the sector.

Student walk out

Today, thousands of students walked out of class as many students are being crippled by the increasing cost of pursuing third-level education.

“They’re right”, said Minister Harris.

“That is why literally days ago … we announced in the budget some pretty significant measures to try and change that reality.”

He said students will soon start to notice the effect “in their pockets” of the reduction in the contribution charge as well as an increased SUSI grant.

“There’s €143 million in cost of living measures for students – just for students, not for their families.”

“That’s a direct recognition of the point that students are making.”

Accommodation crisis

The Minister conceded that the government must do more, “particularly around student accommodation”.

He said that at the end of this month, he will bring a proposal to government that will ask the state to invest in building college-owned “affordable” student accommodation.

“There’s a number of universities in our country today who have land and planning permission to build literally thousands of student accommodation beds.”

“I need to make it viable.”

However, Minister Harris said that the country will not have enough builders to reach all government building targets, but “we do have a plan”.

“We need 50,000 more people working in construction by 2030”, he explained.

“It’s one of the reasons why we’re really trying to grow and promote apprenticeship programmes.”

Sexual assault on campuses

Minister Harris has created 17 new posts across third-level institutions to deal with sexual assault on university campuses.

“We’ve made it very very clear that we want to take a zero tolerance approach approach to sexual harassment and violence.”

“There’s a lot of good stuff going on in the sector around consent classes and training”, he said.

“But, being truthful, there’s a lot of people who have been leading this kind of on the basis of good will.”

The Minister said that experts advised him to create official posts, at the cost of €1.5 million, to more effectively tackle the issue.

These people work within a college “to coordinate the delivery of their action plans on sexual harassment”.

Listen back to the full conversation here:

Main image shows Higher Education Minister Simon Harris in Newstalk’s Dublin studios. Picture by: Newstalk

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