Editorial - Issue 5 - Volume XXIII

WHEN I first wrote an article for this paper, over two years ago now, it was on student fees and how successive governments have done so little to improve the position of students. Way back in September, I wrote my first editorial on the value of an education and what is not being done for students.These positions have not changed. There is woefully little being done for the welfare of students or to alleviate the pressures that they are put under.The issues and things that matter to students are being ignored in a systemic way and there is so little being done to address these that it amounts to nothing. Successive governments, universities and students’ unions do not seem to recognise all the issues and are doing very little to intervene.Young people in 2017 are expected to have an undergraduate degree or diploma. In order to enter into a job with a decent salary, being a graduate of a third-level institution is necessary. However, the hours that students are expected to invest in their future are ridiculous.There is an expectation that every 5 credits a student completes must have about 100 hours of work. In UCD, most undergraduates will complete 30 credits a semester. This means that per a 12 week teaching semester plus exams, students are expected to complete 600 hours of work for their degree.Roughly speaking, this means an average of 40 hours a week spent on your degree. Most full time jobs require between 35-40 hours a week.This in itself is not the issue though. If students had no other expectations to fulfil then it would be no problem.However the financial burden of college means that most students have to work part-time during their degree. In most cases, to pay for accommodation, transport or course materials. A number of students will also need to work to pay their fees. There are numerous other costs that come with college and to deal with them, students must find part-time work.It is rare that you will find a third-level student that does not work outside college. In my group of class friends, 6 out of 8 of us worked weekly part-time jobs. Most of these jobs will expect around 20 hours of work a week, for not much more than minimum wage.As well as a part-time job and degree work, students are also expected to amass a number of extra-curricular activities. When students start in UCD, they are told to “Get Involved!” This pressure also comes from employers who want to see a certain number of extras on a CV.This shows commitment and dedication. It shows that students are willing to give up their free time. Involvement in societies and clubs is a wonderful part of the college experience.However, students can spend anywhere between 5-15 or more hours a week on these activities. On top of the 60 hours they are already expected to spend on their degree and their part-time job. This means most students will be expected to spend 75 hours per week trying to pay for college and then the associated activities they must do when there.To include the recommended 8 hours of sleep a night, this leaves leaves only 37 hours a week for anything else. Including transport to and from college or work, healthy food preparation and the amount of relaxation that humans are supposed to have.The truth of the matter is that we are putting our students under too much pressure. The appropriate amount of student accommodation is not available, leading to searches in the private market. This is not of a guaranteed standard and can increase the pressure on students.After four years, students are then not even guaranteed paid work. It is commonplace for graduates to enter into low or unpaid internships. Or they enrol in a Masters degree, which is becoming increasingly necessary to get employed.Students are being pushed to the limit for too small a return.It is too easy for colleges to claim that this is in part due a lack of funding. Irish universities are falling in international rankings, do not offer enough student accommodation for their population and do not invest in counselling services.Yet somehow UCD found the money to invest in a university club for alumni and external events, for which they have already submitted a planning application. At the same time, no planning permission applications have been submitted for the accommodation they claim to be building.Decisions, like the school of computer science grading changes, are routinely made without the input of students. The University Management Team makes decisions unilaterally and then expects committees with student representatives will rubber stamp.Students and their concerns have been ignored for far too long. Expected to put in a ridiculous number of hours, students are then cut out of any discussion on what effects them.This government, this university and countless others are catastrophically and continuously letting young people down.