UCD Fair and Free, a student-run group campaigning to raise awareness and reduce the financial burden carried by students, has become active online and on UCD campus. Ailish Brennan, a spokesperson for the group, has detailed the four main demands of the group, “the first one is to abolish resit fees, second… to abolish repeat fees, third is to abolish student centre levy… fourth is fee certainty for post-grad students and non-EU students.” Speaking on the student centre levy, Brennan elaborates that the financial burden should not be placed on UCD students through funding cuts to the SU or societies should the levy be removed.
Brennan notes that the SU has “expressed support for the campaign” but are hesitant with the impending UMT report. Brennan acknowledges that they themselves are waiting on the UMT report, however they predict that the report will not go far enough. “I don’t think anyone believes that it will give us a change that will meet the demands we’ve laid out.” The group believes there will be a slight reduction in repeat fees, but merely a “token reduction that won’t amount to significant changes.” Brennan details the group’s involvement with the Take Back Trinity movement, who are keen to make this a wider movement, beyond their respective universities.
Regarding how the group will campaign for these changes, Brennan explains that they are “waiting for the UMT report… it is very soon, but we are keen not to put our foot in it a little bit with the UMT report, because the SU have been vocal about how things are looking positive.” However, the group believe that the change will not be as substantial as the SU expect. The group has plans “for different forms of direct action,” which are “soon to be finalised.” The group notes any response will be measured to the results of the UMT report.
Detailing why the group is vocal and active in regards to fees, Brennan notes a particular testimonial on their Facebook page. It regards a student who had to drop out of college due to resit fees. The student “was struggling to get a job… and focusing a lot of his time getting a job.” Due to the time and financial burden the student was forced to drop out. The group believes firmly that fees restrict many from pursuing their degree, even if such a student receives financial aid from programs such as H.EA.R and SUSI, as some costs are not covered. Brennan notes that, “SUSI does not cover the student centre levy.”
On their Facebook page, the group have written about the “regressive” nature of UCD and its “cash cow culture.” The page contains profiles of two students who say they have experienced difficulties with UCD’s repeat and resits fees. Kate, a Stage 1 Psychology student is quoted as saying “I am a first year student who paid to resit an exam; but was never given the opportunity to actually take the test.”
“Arriving to my first exam in UCD; I was nervous but prepared. That was until I realised I had arrived to the wrong exam and had missed mine by just two hours.” Kate states that she the only option made available to her was to write a 3000-word essay and pay the €230 repeat fee.
The UMT report is due to be released on April 17th, following its release, UCD Fair and Free will make a decision on the actions they will take if they are dissatisfied with the changes to resit and repeat fees.