SIPTU’s Education Sector Committee has called for the establishment of a separate government department for third level education and research. SIPTU Public Administration Division Organiser, Adrian Kane said: “The problems facing the sector prior to the Covid-19 crisis were enormous due to chronic under-investment by the State over the last decade. The loss of revenue resulting from the pandemic could bring the system close to collapse unless the Government develops an immediate plan to stabilise and recapitalise the sector. “Our members have borne the brunt of the experiment which has seen academic institutions essentially morph into commercial enterprises in recent years in an attempt to develop alternative income streams to make up for the shortfall in State investment. The expected collapse in commercial income could reach €374 million over the next two years. “SIPTU is the largest union in the third level sector representing all grades of workers, from cleaners to professors. Terms and conditions of employment have come under enormous pressure due to chronic under-investment by the State in recent years. The casualisation of employment has become a serious problem and careers have been put on hold as normal promotional paths have evaporated,” He added: “We must develop an advanced form of social dialogue at sectoral level to reshape a post pandemic Ireland and a renewed focus on third level education will be critical in that regard. After considerable debate within the SIPTU Education Sector we now believe that the establishment of a separate government department has the potential to bring a greater focus on the requirements of third level education.” SIPTU’s Education Sector Organiser, Karl Byrne said: “The third level sector requires immediate government funds now to sustain the sector in the short term and substantial investment is required for structural development over time. We will be seeking engagement with all political parties, particularly those currently involved government formation talks in order to set out our position on the future of the third level sector.