UCD’s Registrar, Dr Philip Nolan, has conceded that “substantial and meaningful communication did not take place” before current Masters and PhD students were informed of a hike in their academic fees, according to Students’ Union President Gary Redmond.
Details on the decision, which reverses the earlier tradition of halving a student’s fees in the fourth and subsequent years of their research Masters or PhD programmes, were communicated to the students affected in a circular email last semester.
Redmond explained to The University Observer that the decision to increase the fees had been made three years ago, but its implementation had been deferred so as not to affect current PhD students, and to allow prospective students to be fully aware of the financial commitments they would be taking by enrolling in a PhD programme.
“It doesn’t appear that any communication – or certainly any meaningful communication – took place,” Redmond explained, adding that current students were therefore “very surprised to get an e-mail telling them what their fees would be for next year.”
A group of graduate students complained to the Students’ Union in the wake of the email, and set up an online petition lobbying the university to reverse the decision. The SU have since raised the matter at a number of meetings, including the December meeting of the University Governing Authority, at which Dr Nolan agreed to investigate the manner in which the decision was communicated to the student body.
Redmond and other SU representatives met with the Registrar last Friday to discuss the decision.
A UCD spokesperson said that the decision to charge full fees was in line with UCD’s move to “the international model of fees for graduate research students,” and that the decision “was brought forward by the Colleges during the normal fee setting process. As such, from September 2010 the fees for all years of PhD or research masters [programmes] will be charged at the same rate.”
The spokesperson added that “the university would always encourage students to complete their PhDs within the normal four year period.”
Redmond said that the practice of halving the fees from the fourth year onwards dated from times when PhD students would traditionally complete their research within three years.
Postgraduate students in Humanities and Social Sciences are currently charged €5,200 per annum in fees, while those in Science and Engineering pay €5,800.