Today students and staff of Queen’s University Belfast gathered outside the Student’s Union to voice their opposition to proposed cuts to the Department of Employment and Learning’s (DEL) budget as outlined in the draft budget.
The Department is facing a potential budget reduction of 10.8% as a result of government cuts. This 10.8% budget cut amounts to a loss of £82m from DEL’s budget, and will have a significant impact upon Queen’s University and Ulster University. Both educational institutions have warned in recent weeks that proposed financial reductions could result in a fewer university places in the near future.
When asked if he thought the campaign had gathered any momentum, QUB Student Union President, Ciaran Gallagher told The Scoop; “it’s politics as usual, no one is saying anything but the rumours are that we might be making an impact. I certainly hope we are. If not they won’t have heard the last of us.”
President of the University and Colleges Union (UCU), Alan Harpur, was also in attendance at the QUB rally. He addressed the crowd and highlighted the importance of students and unions working together on these issues. Recently however student councillors at QUB rejected a motion which would extend solidarity to the UCU marking boycott which has subsequently now been called off. When asked about this Alan Harpur told The Scoop:
“I think the difficulty with that was that students possibly didn’t understand wholly what the issue was, and also I think some students were fearful they’d be disadvantaged.”
Belfast City Councillor, Gerry Carroll, also made a speech to the modest crowd and later told The Scoop that “we showed the politicians that when they come for us, we’ll come on the streets and make it difficult for them…we’re here for a fight, and it’s a fight we’re definitely, 100%, going to win.”
With a relatively low turnout to the rally, QUBSU President Ciaran Gallagher noted that “student activism isn’t dead, it’s just a different age of information pollution…Student apathy is a myth, they do care.”