Confusion over allocation of contribution charge to services

Confusion has arisen as to how much funds will be allocated to student services due to the rebranding of the student registration fee for next term.The Student Contribution Charge, which was introduced when the 2011 budget was announced, will replace the student registration fee for the term 2011/2012.The University Observer understands that there are no conditions at present that states revenue raised from this charge will be invested towards any services or organisations within any of the universities. Since it is a new charge introduced, its terms do not abide by the conditions of the original registration fee, rendering the original fee breakdown to student services obsolete.The average cost per full-time undergraduate student is set at €10,000 – the more specific breakdown shows the figures ranging from €8,800 for Arts and Social Sciences students to €12,700 for Science students and €26,800 for those studying Veterinary Science.The Higher Education Authority (HEA) pays the remaining amount to the university on behalf of the state, which is worked out on the basis of a formula negotiated every year between each higher-level institution and the HEA.A portion of the former registration fee was allocated to the state though it is unclear as to whether this will be the case with the current student contribution fee. HEA Spokesperson, Malcolm Byrne, stated that “if you pay the €2,000 and only €1,500 stays in the university and €500 goes to the state, the state still has to come up with the money for the balance in terms of being able to fund the students”.“Not the entire €2000 rests in the university itself, some will go straight into state coffers, but the payment is then made out of the state coffers to the university.”Byrne said that essentially, the sum paid by the HEA is based on student numbers though “more money would be given to an Engineering student than an Arts and Humanities student based on the fact that it costs more”.This system of monetary allocation is known as the Recurrent Grant Allocation Model (RGAM). This is not a “demand-led funding mechanism” – rather, a “funds follow the students” approach is taken.This allocation is based on the “total available funding divided by total weighted student numbers”. The University Observer understands that the students are weighted in four main subject price groups: laboratory-based subjects, non-laboratory-based subjects, clinical subjects and field or studio subjects. The internal allocation of funds is at the discretion of each individual university.A spokesperson for UCD said that around 43 per cent of students are grant holders and as they will not be paying the fee personally and will not be “impacted by any increase in charges”.The third-level education system now houses 156,000 students of which 130,000 are undergraduates. There was an increase of what was formerly the Student Registration Fee from €1,500 to €2,000 in the December 2010 budget. If there are more than one member of the same family attending third level, the fee will be lowered to €1,600 for subsequent members.