UCD Students’ Union President, Pat de Brún, has announced his intention of putting a motion to SU Council that would call for a referendum regarding the Union’s stance on free education and free fees.
Should the motion pass Council, UCD students would have to decide whether to change the SU’s current stance of being in favour of free education to one in favour of, for example, a loans or graduate tax system.
De Brún explained that he would like the referendum to go ahead as the Student Contribution Charge, formerly the Registration Fee, may no longer be the best option available to students.
“When the Student Contribution [Charge] was €1,000 or €1,500, that probably was better than any of the other options on the table, but it’s risen and risen and become extremely unaffordable for any UCD student and many students across the country. I have a feeling we may have reached that tipping point.”
At the last Union of Students in Ireland (USI) Council, de Brún proposed that a feasibility report be prepared, investigating other potential options available to students apart from the current Student Contribution Fee. If the referendum goes ahead, an information campaign will be launched by the SU, examining the various options available and their respective positive and negative aspects.
De Brún began considering the idea following the announcement of the 2012 budget, in particular reflecting on what exactly the student movement was achieving by pursuing a free education policy.
“There was always going to be a point where if the student contribution kept going up, it may not be the best option for students anymore. We need to look at it somewhat pragmatically now and say is there any chance that fully free fees will happen over the coming years, I think that it’s looking increasingly unlikely.”
De Brún praised the various campaigns held over the past number of years, but admitted that ultimately, the contribution was still raised. “I think that we’ve had excellent campaigns over the last couple of years, I think we’ve fought tooth and nail and still we see increases to the student contribution.”
Among the various funding options examined will be a graduate tax, a loan scheme, upfront fees as well as the current Student Contribution Charge.
All other universities in Ireland currently have a stance supporting free education.