As the threat of third-level fees dissipates for now, The University Observer delves into the archives to discover that in our first edition, printed fifteen years ago last week, fees were very much on the agenda…
FEES ARE SET to rise over and above the rate of inflation for the next number of years. The Higher Education Authority sanctioned a £100 per year increase for each of the country’s seven university institutions during the summer. This is the beginning of a series of increases over the next six years. In tandem with this move, the seven universities have frozen their number of admissions at last year’s level.
The move comes as a result of the summer long struggle between the Heads of Irish Universities and the Department of Education over the level of funding. The universities claim that they have been made accept vastly increased student levels, without any corresponding increase in funding. UCD alone has increased its student numbers by 59% -from 9960 to 15845- in the past 12 years.
The result has been that the heads of the Universities have agreed that as a general policy there will be a freeze on student numbers; the first time since this college was in its infancy. In a conferring speech during July, Dr Michael Mortell, President of UCC, claimed that the current overcrowding and underfunding in the universities constituted a “crisis in university education”.
He commented that student numbers in the universities were projected to rise from their present level of 52000 to 68000 in the next six years, an increase of 30%, but that an injection of £200 million was required merely to keep student numbers at their present level. This call was echoed by Dr Tom Mitchell, Provost of Trinity, who stated that universities could not continue to guarantee the quality of their degrees without a massive cash injection by the Government.
President of UCD, Professor Art Cosgrove, in a conferring speech this summer, claimed that the proposed abolition of university fees would not of itself create one extra place in university. He described the resources for updating equipment as “derisory”, and called for a rapid increase in university funding.
The result of all this has been a programme forward by the University Heads which proposes a £100m package for the universities. Half of the amount is to be supplied by the Government, and the other half is to be split between fees increases and private fundraising.
In real terms, this means that there will be no course in UCD costing less than £2000 by the year 2000. At present, Law, Arts and Commerce are the least expensive degrees at £1626 for first years and £1591 for subsequent years. Veterinary Medicine at £2485 is the most expensive, followed by Medicine at £2421. Architecture, Agricultural Science, Engineering and Science at £2125. By session 1999/2000, Veterinary will stand at £2985, while Arts/Commerce/Law will cost £2126 per year.