The University Observer understands that UCD Students’ Union and the University are on the verge of agreeing an unprecedented deal that will see UCD refund €7.50 of the Student Centre Levy paid by all students this year.
The deal comes following weeks of negotiations between University and Union representatives after the Students’ Union had legal advisors send a four-page document to the University challenging this summer’s levy increase, which rose from €150 to €157.50.
Rather than being directly refunded to each student, it is anticipated that the refund will be distributed to student interest groups including UCD sports clubs, societies, the Union itself, the Student Welfare Fund, and the Newman Community Fund, with the intention of contributing to student and community life on the campus.
It is understood that the business plan for the extension to the Student Centre – formally titled the UCD Student Learning, Leisure and Sports Complex – had budgeted for an increase in the Student Centre Levy to be linked to inflation, which had later been fixed at projected rate of five per cent a year on advice from the project’s financiers. Inflation for the twelve months up to August, when the increased Levy was charged to students, was just under minus six percent, meaning that the Levy should have instead been reduced by approximately €9.
Meetings between the University and Students’ Union have been ongoing for some weeks, with the Students’ Union adamant that no allowance for inflation was made when the project was approved by the student body by referendum in April 2006, and that students had therefore intended for the levy to be fixed at €150 after a series of pre-approved increases.
The University Observer understands that the Students’ Union are prepared to seek judicial intervention in the matter, should its negotiations with the University fall through.
A statement from the Students’ Union said that the two parties “are continuing negotiations which are at an advanced stage, and both parties are hopeful of an amicable outcome in the near future.” A University spokesperson added that “a positive resolution is expected in the next week or two.” Neither party was prepared to offer any further comment on the matter.
The appointment of a contractor to begin construction work on the project has been put on hold while discussions were ongoing, and it is hoped to commence construction during the Christmas break. The project is currently running at approximately €5 million under budget. When first proposed, it was expected to open the new extended facility by December 2008.