UCD Students’ Union Campaigns and Communications Officer Brendan Lacey has indicated that this year’s fees and grants campaign will cost approximately half of what was allocated to the 2010/2011 campaign. Twenty thousand euro was allocated to the campaign in last year’s SU budget, and while Lacey could not confirm “if they ever spent that much or not” he estimates that this year’s campaign should cost “probably half that”.
A ‘town hall’ meeting held as part of the campaign on the 3rd November drew the attendance of “around a hundred and sixty to two hundred” people. Lacey admitted that the turnout “wasn’t what I wanted it to be” and commented that the timing of the meeting, which was held on a Thursday evening, might have affected the numbers, but maintained that he was “still happy with it … it just gives us that little motivation, that we have to step it up again”.
Lacey also spoke of how one response to the ‘Tell Your TD’ campaign, from Fine Gael TD Eoghan Murphy, “confirms that the Government are planning to put up fees and to drop the maintenance grant”. Lacey explained how Murphy described the governmental financial situation regarding funding for third level education. “In plain terms, he said we can’t afford a loan or graduate scheme at the moment and that’s why the alternative or the interim solution is the increase in the student contribution fee and due to our finances we will also have to cut the maintenance grant budget.” Despite this, Lacey remains confident about the outcome of both tomorrow’s march and the overall campaign. “I really do think the campaign’s going to pay off and I’m really hopeful about the result we’re going to get out of it.”
Further cuts to third level education were confirmed this weekend, as a government proposal to abolish all maintenance grants for postgraduate students was revealed in the Sunday Business Post. The proposal was described by Union of Students in Ireland (USI) President Gary Redmond as a move that Education Minister Ruairi Quinn “simply must re-consider”.
Both Redmond and Lacey anticipate a large turnout at tomorrow’s ‘Stop Fees, Save the Grant’ protest, with Redmond predicting that over one hundred and fifty buses will bring protesters from all over the country to Dublin on the day. Lacey remarked that he expects a larger turnout of UCD students than were present at last year’s march; “I think we could get more numbers out than we did last year, which I didn’t think would happen when we first sat down to plan this campaign”. Regarding the sleepout, which is due to take place at Molesworth Street after the march, he emphasised that it would be a “strictly no alcohol event”, and stated that both the Gardai and an event management company would be on-site.