Registration fees could rise again

The registration fee to attend third level education institutions may rise with the forthcoming budget, despite the Government shelving plans for the reintroduction of third level fees.The registration fee for an academic year at each of Ireland’s seven universities currently stands at €1,500 per person, which is the maximum permissible fee for any higher-level institution under last year’s budget cap.John GormleyCurrently, the student services charge is decided annually by third-level institutions in consultation with the Higher Education Authority and the Department of Education and Science, subject to the budget’s limit. However should the government decide to increase the cap on the fee from €1500, each of the seven universities could then apply a further increase to students’ registration costs to help fund the institutions.Under the new Programme for Government agreed upon two weeks ago by Fianna Fáil and the Green Party, both parties agreed to abolish the proposed reintroduction of third level fees. However, speaking on RTÉ radio last week, Green Party leader and Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, John Gormley TD, confirmed that despite there being no intention to reintroduce third level fees, an increase in the registration fee would be a matter for each individual institution to decide.A spokesperson from the Department of Education and Science stated that “the student services charge is levied by third level institutions to defray the costs of examinations, registration and students services,” and that “these services may include on-campus medical and counselling facilities for students, such as access and disability services, careers office, student facilities, student clubs and societies.”The University Observer understands that the Minister for Education and Science, Batt O’Keeffe TD does not propose to change this arrangement, and that any change in this level would be subject to decision of the governing authority within each university. However, the cap of the fee as prescribed in the national budget has not been ruled out.The Department spokesperson also stated that “any change in the level of this charge would only be considered where the increase is intended to bring the amount contributed by students into line with the costs of the range of students services provided.”A spokesperson from the Green Party told The University Observer that because they were “conscious of the economic pressures on parents today, this Government will not proceed with any new scheme of student contribution for Third Level education.” The Green Party spokesperson also reiterated that “registration fees are decided annually by third-level institutions in consultation with the Higher Education Authority and the Department of Education and Science,” and that “the Green Party does not believe in student fees ‘by the back door’.”