No room for Disadvantaged and Travellers say UCD authorities

Originally published in Volume II, Issue 11 on 16th April 1996 by Roddy O'Sullivan. UCD has reinforced its exclusive image by telling socially disadvantaged students and travellers that they may have to wait years before room can be found for them. In a week of PR nightmares, the college authorities decided not to go ahead this year with a scheme to create 70 extra places for students form socio-economically disadvantaged areas and were reprimanded by the County Manager of Dun Laoighaire-Rathdown for dragging their heels on the provision of land for a halting site for travellers on the college grounds. Under the scheme for disadvantaged students, which was declared postponed during the Easter holidays, 2% of the college’s intake was to have been reserved for the disadvantaged students. Top up grants of up to £1500 a year would been available along with the normal Local Authority Higher Education grant to ensure that students had no financial barrier to taking up a place in UCD.Students from disadvantaged areas would also have been able to enter any college course they wished without all of the required points as long as they had minimum entry requirements. A spokesperson for the college said the plan had been dropped after “a more realistic appraisal of the circumstances required for implementing such a scheme.” Several departments complained that they would need extra resources to help participating students make the necessary social and cultural adaptation college life. Along with Trinity, UCD has the lowest proportion of students from socially disadvantaged backgrounds of any university in the country. The Higher Education Authority recommended last year that the country’s universities set aside five hundred new places a year for disadvantaged students. Meanwhile, the County Manager of Dun Laoighaire-Rathdown has told his council that they may have to consider using compulsory purchasing orders against UCD to force the college to sell land at Foster’s Avenue which the council requires to build a halting site. Mr Liam Byrne told the council that college said they wished to hold on to the site on Fosters’ Avenue until after the completion of the South East motorway. Describing the delays in providing the land as unacceptable, he said it would set back the council’s traveller housing programme by years. Dun Laoighaire-Rathdown originally came to the UCD authorities in 1986 with a plan to build a halting site on half an acre of a 16 acre section of UCD land which they proposed to purchase to build the South East motorway. While the plan to build a motorway was postponed, the council were still anxious to build a halting site after Dublin Corporation initiated a policy of having a halting site in every ward. A half acre site accommodating five families was proposed to UCD. UCD replied they would sell the land on two conditions (i) of the local residents agreed to the scheme and (ii) if the South East motorway were to be completed so that the halting site would not have to be moved to another part of the campus when the road building began.As both of these conditions were highly unlikely to be fulfilled before the year 2000, this is seen as a polite way for UCD to say it doesn’t want travellers on campus. The majority of the Governing Body are thought to be against travellers being settled on campus, for practical as well as less rational reasons. Building and Services are thought to fear a proliferation of litter and the possibility of horses and other animals roaming campus, while supervision on the site is an absolute prerequisite if college is to agree to its location within the Belfield. College authorities are also said to fear that if they allow the halting site to be built, local residents will object to planning permission for any building projects UCD might wish to undertake, such as the new Veterinary hospital, the Student Centre and Phase 2 of the Engineering building.