Ireland’s housing crisis is eroding university life, warned Linda Doyle, principal of Trinity College Dublin.
Speaking from MacGill Summer School in Glenties, County Donegal, where she was delivering the annual John Hume Lecture, Dr Doyle said the shortage of affordable housing was preventing people from accessing education .
For students forced to live in their family home and endure long commutes, it diminishes their experience of campus life, which is an essential part of third-tier life, she added.
“The housing crisis in Ireland has daily implications for all citizens,” she said.
“But it really limits our ability for people to benefit from education, if they can’t find housing. These things are important.
“Students have to commute from home. When you think of college life, it’s not just about what they learn in the classroom. It’s about all the other things they do too.
“At some campuses, people have to leave at 5 p.m., 6 p.m. to go back (home) and are not able to fully engage.
“We also have people from abroad who cannot fill positions because of the (housing) available. Not only is housing not available, but what is available is very expensive.
When asked if the crisis was eroding university life in Ireland, she replied: “Yes, I believe it is.”
Drawing on remarks by Nobel Peace Prize laureate and former leader of the Social Democratic and Labor Party John Hume, Dr Doyle said universities should be “places of great diversity that celebrate difference, places that live for ideals and places that educate for a future that will be as big as our dreams allow.
While Irish universities had made some “progress” towards these ideals, she admitted “of course we can go much further”.
The theme of MacGill’s 43rd Annual Summer School is “The Destruction of Ukraine and its People – The Fallout for Humanity”.
Dr Doyle described Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Europe as “a huge affront to democracy”.
This had “a major impact on most people’s economy, although some people continue to do well, and a huge effect on the planet, whether it’s the carbon footprint of war, people going back to using fossil fuels or the planet being pushed off the agenda because of it.
“The world is broken – very, very broken,” she said.
In historical context, when much of this had already been going on “now they are at our doorstep… taking over a country in the middle of Europe, London is burning beside us, everyone is feeling the true effect of the economy.”
“It’s not like these things haven’t happened before, but they all came together in a very crucial way. They are present, they are very close to us now. We simply cannot ignore them.
Dr Doyle said universities must act as examples of how to respond to the multiple crises facing the world.
“I think we have to follow the lead,” she said, adding that she favors the “doughnut economy” approach of pushing the boundaries within the confines of a social base. and an ecological ceiling.
This includes “taking our share of global emissions” as well as “research influencing global nature-based solutions and green jobs of the future”.
“There is a lot of work to be done, to ensure that students receive a decent research stipend, affordable accommodation for students and staff, so that people can come to universities from all over Ireland, from all over the world “, she added.
While there was a “good understanding” of what needs to be done and “shining examples in almost all universities on the ecological front”, there is still “a lot of work to do” in terms of social inclusion, a- she agreed.
“The government must also honor the funding pledged for the sector, which will only make up for funding lost in the past and not put us forward,” said Dr Doyle.