Universities admit student charge is an unofficial fee
UNIVERSITY heads have admitted publicly for the first time that student registration charges are fees by any other name.
They also confirmed that some library costs were now being taken from the student charge and, in the case of Trinity College Dublin (TCD), some costs associated with animal testing are also being funded from the charge.
And they disclosed that they had not sought the huge rise in the charge from €900 to €1,500 this academic year, and claimed the decision was taken by the Government.
The seven university presidents were grilled by TDs and senators at an Oireachtas education committee yesterday, during which Fine Gael's Brian Hayes criticised the "flexible definitions" of the charge and what it was used for.
In its submission, the Irish Universities' Association representing the seven heads said the average spend per student of around €1,750 was more than the €1,500 levied this year.
Committee chair Paul Gogarty quizzed Trinity's provost, Dr John Hegarty, over the inclusion of the library and animal testing centre in the activities funded, in part, by the student charge instead of being paid for entirely out of the core state grant to the university.
After the meeting, Mr Gogarty said he was disappointed with the response he had received from Dr Hegarty.
The TCD students' union released documents which showed that the bio-resources unit in Trinity is listed among academic and other services which are part-funded by the student registration charge.
"The fact Trinity College is now using money designated for services such as health and counselling to fund an animal testing centre shows how much of a scam the student services charge really is," Trinity's student union president, Conan O Broin, said.
UCD Students' Union president Gary Redmond added that the fact universities were now categorising core student facilities as libraries and computers as student services was farcical.
"This is nothing other than creative accounting to justify the introduction of third-level fees by the back door," he said.
The Higher Education Authority is now looking at the use of the service charge by third-level institutions.