Photo by Niall Hurson

Many college students are faced with compulsory placements and no guarantee of payment. A day’s work warrants compensation, writes Niall Hurson.

In January 2019 pharmacy students took to the streets of Dublin to protest a ban on paid internship placements, required as part of the final two years of their degree. The group were successful with the ban being lifted but payment still remains optional. Previous to the ban pharmacy students could earn up to €22,000 for full-time work they undertook in their final year.

The vast majority of courses offered by UCD include a professional work experience aspect as part of the degree structure. Students who chose industry placements tend to have less trouble securing a remuneration package with a reliable human resources department in place for most companies. Others who obtain placements with smaller businesses may receive a much lower form of compensation, and in many cases nothing at all. 

In 2018, the Union of Students Ireland highlighted the cost of becoming a teacher through a survey involving undergraduates. It found that more than 3,000 student teachers had considered dropping out because of the financial pressures associated with completing their courses. Student teachers are required to spend a minimum of 100 hours working as a teacher in a school over the course of their four-year programmes.

The cost of being a student is widely known. Expenses generated through food, rent and transport apply to every student in Ireland. Those who undertake a placement in Dublin are exposed to heightened expenses with rent on a constant climb within the city and the surrounding commuter towns. Compensation should be a guarantee in order to allow students to carry out their placement without generating debt.

An honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay. A phrase we are all familiar with but an ethos some students have to overlook in order to obtain experience in their chosen fields or to meet a college placement requirement.