UCD Students’ Union Sabbatical and Executive Officers attended the annual lobby day held by the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) in Buswells Hotel in Dublin on 13th October. The lobbying involved student representatives being provided with the chance to put forward queries to TDs and Senators.
The student representatives had three main issues this year for the Oireachtas: capping the registration fee, graduate unemployment and problems with grants.
The registration fee currently stands at €1,500, with a risk of that fee being doubled. This would represent a major increase in the IR£150 students had to pay in 1996, when the registration fee system was first introduced and third-level fees abolished.
There was a five per cent cut in the grant in the last national budget, with a further decrease likely to take place in the coming December budget. However, UCDSU President Paul Lynam said that students would not be taking “cutbacks to our budget lying down”.
As a result of a decrease in the budget and increase in people applying for a grant, the grant itself will drop to below €3,000. A statement released by UCDSU said: “Students who are most in need of financial support are being targeted unfairly by the current government.”
According to UCDSU, attention was also drawn to the “huge disparity” in grant processing costs between respective county councils, with costs per successful application ranging from €82.79 in Westmeath to €484.25 in North Tipperary.
USI has lobbied the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Enterprise, Trade and Innovation to make graduate unemployment a high priority. Students have the option of drawing Jobseekers Allowance or emigrating after they graduate. This is, according to Lynam, a needless situation after “the government has spent thousands of euro educating us”.
Lynam explained how “banks are not giving out loans anymore as there’s no guarantee of jobs to pay them back,” before adding that “in a time of recession, education should be the way forward”.
USI President and former UCDSU President, Gary Redmond, hopes that October’s presentation will “prompt the Government to put in place the measures proposed by USI”. While Lynam states that the issues highlighted by student representatives to Ireland’s TDs and Senators are “the issues we will be marching on”.