On Friday, November 27th, a statement was released by UCDSU announcing that the University had made €11 million extra in student fees than the year previously.
The €11 million rise in fees comes at a time when close to one-hundred percent of student tuition took place online, with the exception of mandatory labs. It is understood that this rise in income is reflective of students returning to education during the Covid-19 crisis. Students who enrolled in the University were promised that “40-60%” of their undergraduate learning would take place on-campus, and that postgraduates could expect “75-100%” in-person class time, until September 14th, when classes were initially moved online, before being announced that this would continue for the rest of the trimester on October 6th. The promise to hold face-to-face classes was repeatedly protested by Unions throughout the summer.
UCDSU President Conor Anderson said; “We are deeply angered by the recent reports of UCD making €11 million more in student fees this year than last. They have made money off students during Covid-19, while the call for reasonable compensation due to the disruption caused by the pandemic has been ignored every time student representatives have raised it”.
Many groups of students have to date organized in protest of the fees and conditions they are facing this year. Anderson commented: “We are calling on the University to listen to different student groups and to take our concerns seriously. First the medicine students, the business students and the nursing students who have all organised and presented their needs to UCD".
“Some of the hardest-hit are medical students, who also face year-on-year fee increases. Current fees are €16,290 for Irish students and €55,140 for non-EU students, which represents an increase of €1,000 and €3,000, respectively, since 2017" Anderson said. Graduate Entry Medicine students have threatened to withhold the payment of their fees, demanding better conditions and a lowering of fees: "These students have asked UCD to show where this extra money is going, but no explanation has been provided" Anderson said, "Medical students are telling us that as fees are increasing, so are student numbers, but funding for supports remains static. On top of that, the available financing for these students caps at €14,000 per year, which no longer covers the cost of fees. Med students simply asked for a halt to these unjustified increases. How are students expected to budget for an extra €1,000 every year until they graduate? When our student doctors are working on the frontlines for little or no pay during a pandemic, the least we can do is freeze the cost of their course. It is putting them under significant undue stress”.
It was previously understood that as a result of the pandemic, the University was facing significant financial hurdles. Andersons spoke of his anger that this was not the case: “The unspoken assumption has been that the University is struggling financially, just as so many students are. We can now confidently say that is not the case: we are struggling, but they are not. Yet again, it is the students who are called on to foot the bill, whether that means financing luxury accommodation affordable to only the most well-off or carrying the University through a global pandemic on our backs. This pattern is untenable, and it is incompatible with a society that values a publicly funded and accessible higher education sector.
“It is obviously unfair for us to tighten our belts and eat the cost of these high fees, while the University takes our money to pad their reserves. Many students are unable to get jobs, many have seen our grades fall due to stress and difficulty – we cannot be expected to bail-out UCD by paying higher fees this year. Where’s our bail-out? It’s our money!”