Changes have been introduced the postgraduate fee structure this year, enabling students to pay part-fees for the final year of their PhD.
UCDSU President Paul Lynam, Education Vice President James Williamson and Postgraduate Officer Martin Lawless finalised a programme of change, which enables current postgraduate students to pay part fees unless they need to go beyond the average PhD duration.
In the extra year they will have to pay 75 per cent fees and full fees for years after that.
The measures have been implemented on the basis that PhD students studying for more than four years will rarely use university facilities to the same extent in their final year.
Williamson cited further reasons for the restructuring plans: “The problem was that the university wanted to introduce fees straight away, so somebody in their third year of the PhD programme going into fourth was being asked to pay double what they had budgeted for because they were told when they started the programme that they would pay half fees in the final year of their programme and now they would have to pay full.”
This sparked postgraduate campaigns and online petitions that attracted a lot of attention earlier in the year: “The postgraduate community last year came together and had mass meetings. They were quite strong and had a very definitive message in what they wanted.”
Williamson said that the success of the postgraduate campaigns were evident even before he took office: “By the time I had taken office, the registrar was already aware of the situation and how unhappy the people were and he was just as willing as I was to get the situation sorted.”
He added that the registry figures prove that very few students will be affected by the fourth year clause, and expressed his delight at the restructuring plans: “I think the students got the best deal possible from the situation. These students had entered college with a legitimate expectation and the idea that they would be paying half the fees. It’s pretty much a contract with the university that you’re going to be paying in such manner. If the university broke that there would be a lot of trouble and not just mass meetings of students.”
There have also been further positive changes such as the introduction of the sabbatical semester. Student can now take a semester out of their course by notifying their relevant school. Additionally, postgraduates studying over three semesters can now pay their fee instalments in thirds, as is the case with two semester courses.