College stands accused in fees fiasco

Originally published in Volume V, Issue 2 on 14th October 1998 by Katherine O'Callaghan. Numerous post-graduate commerce students have still not been re-imbursed the money they were overcharged at the beginning of the year. The Masters of Accountancy class were over-charged to a cost of £500 each, due to an error in the college fees handbook. It has emerged that the Fees office is operating a practise whereby only those students who notice the error will be reimbursed. The advertised fee was £4,000. It later emerged that the actual fee due was £3,500. The college did not advertise the overcharging or attempt to contact any of the students but assumed “that their lecturers have told them.” Ms. Deirdre Grattan, Fees Officer, explained that though there was indeed an error in the sum charged for the course, the college makes it clear on the handbook that “they are not bound” by what is written within. Rather than immediately reimbursing those who paid in full, the college is instead maintaining a policy of silence and intend only reimbursing those who realise the error and request a refund. Ms. Grattan said that the college would not be contacting students. “Refunds are granted on request” she continued. The procedure has emerged in light of several errors in the Fees for Session 1998/99 booklet which could result in students being overcharged, in some cases by £800. Dr. Tony Scott, Director of Public Affairs, contacted the University Observer to clarify that there were checks waiting for the students in the Administration building.The college prints the following disclaimer on the back of its fees booklet: “University College Dublin is not bound by any error in, or omission from this publication. The Governing Authority reserves the right to revise at any time the fees specified of the manner of payment.” The mistake in the fees of the Master of Accountancy appears to have been the fault of the commerce faculty itself. The Dean of the faculty of commerce, Frank Bradley, has put the mistake down to a “Gremlin in the system” when writing up the accounts for the booklet. Further mistakes in the handbook have led to confusion among students. Students in the third year of an MLitt have been under the impression that there has been £1,000 rise in fees this year. It is not known as yet whether any students have actually paid this extra money. It has now emerged that this increase is in fact another mistake and that there is no increase. The same mistake was made regarding the MPhil course fee.The Fees Office now admit that this increase applies only to research MA. Students taking longer than two years to complete their research thesis must now pay full fees, rather than the usual half fees, for a further third year. This means that last year students in their third year paid £680. This year, however, a third year student must pay the full fees, which are now at £1684. The reduced fees don’t come into effect until a fourth year has begun. After receiving complaints from affected students, the University Observer contacted the Fees office who were unable to give any explanation for this increase. Assistant Dean of Post Graduate Arts, Dr. Phyllis Gaffney, was also unable to explain the increase. She explained that “the increase was presented at the Academic Council last May by the Arts Faculty as resulting from students taking longer to complete their studies. Extra classes and facilities were required for third year, which they claimed meant a 100% increase.” He further added “the only concession given to the students was that future increases would be made in a more transparent fashion and not presented as a fait accompli.”The SU Education officer Charlie McConalogue added “it would be impossible to overturn the fee increase at this stage, even with the support of the academics, but it may be possible to restrict the increase to incoming students. This would mean current students would not be penalised by paying fees they didn’t know would be implemented when they began their courses.”