Students protest against reintroduction of fees
STUDENTS held a symbolic protest in front of the famous gates of Trinity College Dublin yesterday to show the effect they believe fees would have on third-level education.
The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) said they were trying to highlight that a reintroduction of fees in any guise would be "short-sighted" and a "terrible backward step".
"All the evidence shows that when they introduced fees in the UK, applications to college dropped, especially from lower-income backgrounds," USI's deputy president Dave Curran said. "We need to be opening up third-level education to as many people as possible; there should be no arbitrary barriers placed in front of people because they can't afford it."
Students carried a banner 'Don't lock us out of College' as they campaigned against the potential reintroduction of fees.
Mr Curran argued that the government was looking for other sources of revenue after years of underfunding the sector.
A Bank of Ireland Life study has estimated the costs of financing a student living away from home for a four-year college programme amounts to €30,000, which would potentially rise by a further €20,000 or €30,000 if fees were reintroduced, Mr Curran argued.
"We spend far less in terms of public funding of third-level education than the EU average, and even during our massive economic boom we didn't invest properly in education," he said, adding that they would escalate their protests next month.
The protest followed Education Minister Batt O'Keeffe's raising of the possibility of third-level fees for higher-income families.
A spokesman for the Education Department said yesterday: "We'd encourage any stakeholder group to engage with us constructively on a national debate of funding of the third-level sector.
"It's important to point out that the minister made it clear any move to introduce any form of student contribution would only be geared towards those who can afford to pay."