UCD Students’ Union have no immediate plans for any protests or demonstrations, despite the introduction of third level fees still being a concern for students.
A protest for students from all over Ireland was organised last year chiefly by the Union of Students in Ireland (USI), which ultimately prevented the increase of the registration fee to €3,000, with it being raised instead to €2,000.
Following UCD’s recent drop to 134th in the QS World University Rankings, university president Dr Hugh Brady stated that Irish universities “could not possibly compete at the top” when other universities, using the UK as an example, will from next year on be free to charge up to €10,369 in undergraduate fees.
Dr Brady’s comment comes as a report from the Higher Education Authority (HEA) stated that an increase from €1.3bn to €1.8bn in higher education funding will be required by 2020 to maintain expected standards in academia as well as in other services.
Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn said in July that he is “not ruling anything in or out” with regard to the third level budget but that an increase in fees was “not desirable” as it would “prevent socio-economic groups that we’re trying to get into the third-level sector from participating”.
This uncertainty, combined with the report from the HEA, suggests the possibility that the student charge, which was this year raised from €1,500 to €2,000, may once again be looked at as a means of making up the deficit.
SU president Pat de Brún has said that while he agrees with Dr Brady that UCD needs more funding he feels that this should come from “public funding as opposed to student contribution funding” and urged the Minister for Education to consider the reaction from students to the Liberal Democrats in the UK who reneged on a pledge not to raise fees and suffered significantly as a result.
De Brún replied in the affirmative when asked if he felt students had been let down by the government and appealed to Mr Quinn to “stick by some Labour principles” warning they will be a “dead party” if they continue to ignore them.
Asked if the Students’ Union had considered reducing budgets in other areas of the SU to accommodate a potential increase in demand for welfare services, de Brún stated that they are presently working towards making the Union more efficient in an attempt to avoid cuts to services.
He is also aware that an increase in the third-level budget will be difficult given Ireland’s economic difficulties but was clear in stating the Union’s belief that “investment in third-level education leads to dividends in the long-run”. Asked if he could see a repeat of last year’s student protests, de Brún said that while it is important to have a number of approaches, “we are prepared for anything”.