Thousands of students are expected to take to the streets on Wednesday following a weekend of alarming articles in two of Ireland’s national newspapers. The Sunday Business Post reports today that the government may scrap all financial assistance for new postgraduate students whilst the President of UCC has told the Irish Times that undergraduate student fees of at least €4, drugstore 500-€5, stuff 000 per year are necessary.
The Post (subscription) reports that the government is set to end all financial aid for new postgraduate students, students who are currently enrolled in postgraduate courses will continue to receive their grant until they finish their programme.
According to the Post some 40% (9,000) of postgraduate students this year currently have their fees paid by the state and receive a maintenance grant. Cutting financial assistance for new postgraduate students from next year will save €50 million annually, the Department of Education expects.
Gary Redmond, the President of the Union of Students in Ireland reacted to the news,“this proposal has been greeted with shock and dismay by students, parents and families. The Programme for Government promises a surgeon’s scalpel would be taken to waste and inefficiency in Higher Education. Instead a butcher’s cleaver appears to have been taken to student supports such as the Maintenance Grant.”
“In practice, entry to many professions requires some form of a postgraduate qualification. Families who are not in a position to pay fees for postgraduate courses and pay for other associated costs would find it impossible for their children to progress to postgraduate courses.”
He added, “This Government, and its predecessor, have spoken at length about the need to build a knowledge economy, the value of education and the need for Ireland to increase its R&D capacity. This proposal would mean that the number of students able be able to progress to Masters and Phd level would plummet, and Higher Education in Ireland would return to being the preserve of the wealthy elite.”
One final year UCD student who is planning on applying for several postgraduate programmes told the College Tribune, “This really throws a spanner in the works. I have worked so hard to keep my grade high so I would be accepted into the masters program that I wanted but if there is no grant and if I have to pay full fees I just won’t be able to do it. I hadn’t planned on marching this week as I didn’t think the cuts would affect me, but I know I will be going now.”
In what would appear to be a boost for the USI’s campaign targeted at the Labour Party, it is understood that at least ten Labour TDs who are concerned about education cuts met last week. The meeting took place outside the parliamentary party and one TD told the Post it represented “the first sign of a subtle resistance on a specific issue.”
Meanwhile UCC President, Dr. Michael Murphy has said that fees of €4,500-€5,000 per year are necessary to maintain the quality of higher education in Ireland at its current standard.
Speaking to the Irish Times,Murphy said that graduates benefit from a higher income and it is only right that those who can afford it are asked to make a more significant contribution.
Dr. Murphy, who at €232,000 is Ireland’s highest paid university President, defended his salary saying he is earning less than he was a decade ago and that compared to college heads in the UK he receives a relatively modest sum.
The USI’s “Stop Fees” demonstration will take place on Wednesday afternoon from 3pm in Dublin city centre.