UCD Students’ Union released a statement last week which claims that only €505 of the €1500 registration fee is spent on student services. According to the press release, the remainder of the fee is used to cover a core funding deficit from the government.
The statement followed a similar statement issued to the Oireachtas Education Committee by Trinity College SU which estimated that out of their €900 registration fee in 2008-2009, around €590 was spent directly on student services, while €310 was used to cover shortfalls in HEA funding.
In light of the statements from both students’ unions, demands have been made by opposition party spokespeople for an immediate investigation into the breakdown of how student registration fees are spent in third level institutions.
Both students’ union presidents, Gary Redmond and Conán Ó Broin, will meet with Higher Education Authority Chief Executive, Tom Boland next week to discuss the registration fee.
In their press release UCDSU President Gary Redmond said “This arrangement is unacceptable. Students are paying more in their Registration Fee each year, but seeing less of a return. Important student services such as the Student
Advisers, the Library, and the Careers Office are suffering badly under current cutbacks. The fact that a student’s increased Reg Fee does nothing to help this is a slap in their face.”
The committee has decided to forward the document to the Minister for Education and Science, Batt O’Keeffe TD, requesting an urgent response before the next budget.
Fine Gael spokesperson on education, Brian Hayes TD, said that the figures revealed the “covert reintroduction of third-level tuition fees”, and that the registration fee – formally entitled the ‘Student Services Levy’ – is not being used for its original purpose.
The accounts showed that a substantial amount of the charge to students was diverted into the core HEA grant and general maintenance at TCD, which Hayes felt was evidence that students are being “conned”, since the expenditure isn’t related to student services.
Hayes said that he had written to the Controller and Auditor General, asking for an immediate investigation of how registration fees were spent at the state’s seven universities and fourteen institutes of technology.
Oireachtas Education Committee chairman and Green Party education spokesman, Paul Gogarty TD, rejected Hayes’s claim, saying that while there was a lack of clarity as to how registration fees were assessed in colleges, it did not mean that fees were being introduced covertly. However, he felt that registration fees either needed to be reduced, or colleges needed enhanced student services.
A Trinity College statement stated that the student charge covered around 80 to 85 per cent of the costs of student services, with the balance being met by the college. They also said that the university has fully complied with the requirements set out by the Department of Education and Science’s circular since the charge was introduced in 1996.