Thousands of students march for public funding of third-level education

THOUSANDS of students gathered on Parnell Street today as part of a Union of Students in Ireland (USI)-led march against third-level funding cuts. The march, which went from Parnell Street to just behind Leinster House, saw a variety of university students' unions around the country march under the banner of lowering fees and public funding of third-level education.The march was part of USI's #EducationIs campaign, and followed July's Cassells Report that the current third-level funding model is unsustainable.Despite not being a member of the USI, the UCDSU marched as part of the demonstration. The SU was campaigning against UCD library cuts that has seen staff numbers drop from 215 to 137 in the period between 2007 and 2015.Under the slogan of "Save our Library from 36% Cuts", the SU took part in the march, led by the current sabbatical team. Buses were organised to and from UCD this afternoon.Speaking with the Observer yesterday before the march, SU Education Officer Lexi Kilmartin stressed that "We’re not protesting fees directly. What we’re protesting is cuts to higher education funding... Higher education was promised an additional hundred million euro funding by the government and got 36.5 million.”In a statement released prior to the demonstration, USI president Annie Hoey declared that "the loan scheme option put forward in the Cassells report is unsustainable. It will increase emigration, saddle young people with a mortgage-modelled debt and deter mature and part-time students from applying to college."The march itself made its way down O'Connell Street and through the quays, before crossing through Pearse Street and ending by Merrion Square and behind Leinster House.A stage was set-up at the Merrion Squre destination, and featured a number of guest speakers. The speeches were introduced by Rubberbandits member and political activist Blindboy Boatclub. Trinity College Dublin student Carly Bailey was the first to speak to the thousands gathered declaring that "the government has a choice to make." Irish Second-Level Students' Union president Jane Hayes-Nally was next; reiterating that education was a basic human right.Finally, USI's Annie Hoey took to the stage in an impassioned speech. Hoey demanded change from the government, and urged those in attendence to get angry about student fees. "How dare they make a commodity of our future!" Hoey stated.An estimated 8,000 to 10,000 students took to Dublin streets, featuring students from universities and colleges from all around the country,