Graduate Officer Niall Torris has come out strongly against rising postgraduate fees calling it a “very cynical move” by UCD.
Speaking to the Tribune Mr Torris said “I think it’s very cynical on behalf of the university, I think the fact that the University [UCD] are accelerating their fees by approximately 4% on average across the board is a very cynical move and I think it’s cowardly on behalf of the University and in particular President Deeks, The Registrar’s Office and anyone else who is involved in this decision.”
The comments come as postgraduate students in Trinity have threatened strike action over increases to their postgraduate fees. Mr Torris was present at the meeting where that decision was made. “TCDGSU have seen postgrad fee increases year on year since 2014. They’ve had a 4% increase in 2014, a 3% increase in the years following and the proposed increase for next year is 5%. TCD postgraduate students have voted to go on strike and withdraw their labour from TCD. I think UCD aren’t far off creating a situation like that here. I think that they would do well to learn from the pressure Trinity College have come under from this”.
Torris has described continued increases in postgraduate fees as treating postgraduates students like a ‘cash cow’. He explained “I think they’re absolutely failing in the duty of care that they have to students that they’re trying to draw this cash from”. Fees for undergraduate courses are set by the Department of Education and Skills and so cannot be increased by UCD. Postgraduate fees are set by the individual university. Multi year courses are particularly vulnerable as fees can increase which have tended to increase by approximately 4% year on year as stated on the UCD website.
3rd level education is suffering a funding crisis with just €36 million of the €100 million promised by Fine Gael having been put into 3rd level funding. Mr Torris believes this gap in funding is the reason why postgraduate fees are being increased but says it’s not good enough. “The University needs to pursue the solutions from the Cassells Report. The students of UCD have been very clear in that they want the University to fight for increased public funding and significantly lower fees, they expressed that during the referendum and I think that they are disregarding the will of the student body and they are attacking the postgraduates because they see it as the path of least resistance for this. I think it’s incredibly cowardly.”
Mr Torris’ main issue is that postgraduates are not being offered the same level of service as undergraduates. For example postgraduate students cannot access the Maths Support Centre and don’t receive any orientation even if they’ve never attended UCD.
“When you look at the amount of money being paid whether it be on a one year or multi year degree is going to cost anywhere between twice to three or four times as much as an undergraduate degree whether they’re an EU or Non-EU student. We have just short of 9,000 post grads in UCD and that’s a quarter of all the postgrads in Ireland and somewhere in the region of 30% of the students here in UCD. When you consider how much they pay year on year, it wouldn’t be a jump to say that they must be paying at least 50%-60% of the income of fees and the level of service being provided specifically for graduate students is almost non existent at a university level.”
Rachel O’Neill – Editor