University College Cork has reversed its decision to increase its student capitation fee by €200, following threats of litigation from its Students’ Union.
The increase in fees was intended to cover the construction costs for a new Sports Park as part of a new ‘Sports Strategy’ on campus, which students had twice voted against in previous referendums. UCCSU threatened to take a case to the High Court following legal advice. They claimed that it was unlawful to implement the changes without the prior consent of students.
Over the summer, students occupied the presidents wing of the university to protest the increase. Officers from The Union of Students Ireland (USI) were also in attendance at the protest. They attempted to access the president’s office but were prevented by university staff. Patrick O’Shea, President of UCC, agreed to meet Students’ Union representatives as a result of the protest, but this did not prevent the university from implementing the fee in September. The increase in the fee was done unilaterally by the college itself, without influence from any government body, and was not covered by student grants such as SUSI.
UCC has also agreed to refund students for the €80 installment that was paid in September as a result of the decision.
While the decision was widely welcomed, the circumstances in which it was reached have raised questions about the divide between students and the university. USI President, Lorna Fitzpatrick commented, “It’s a positive decision, but it’s a decision that should have never come in this way.”
This sentiment was echoed by UCCSU President Ben Dunlea, who released a press statement, saying “It is a condemnation of the system that the only barrier to the introduction of a potentially unlawful fee was several Student Union Officers and the students who campaigned alongside us.”