Ireland is one of Europe’s most expensive countries for third-level education, according to student representative bodies.
College fees are one of the most problematic situations a student faces in Ireland. According to The Zurich Cost of Education Survey 2020, students who are residents of Ireland can be paying annual fees up to €8,467 with student accommodation and €4,522 when living at home. College students outside of the EU can pay between €9,850-€55,000 for undergraduate courses, and for postgraduate and PhD courses, between €9,950-€35,000. In Germany by comparison, EU, home country, and non-EU students require no payment of tuition fees towards undergraduate courses, just a €100 – €350 administrative fee. In Sweden, EU and home country students don’t pay tuition fees. PhD, Bachelor’s, and Master’s courses in Nordic countries such as Denmark and Sweden are also fully funded by the government. Non-EU students pay between €7,500-€25,500 for a Bachelor’s or Master’s programme.
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Ireland’s Higher Education Authority (HEA) has a scheme called the Free Fees Initiative, which has eligibility criteria. This scheme pays the tuition fees of full-time undergraduate college students, but does not pay the contribution charge of €3,000.
The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) is a representative organisation that is demanding the reduction of college fees. An online protest on Zoom, organised by the USI, took place on 24 March and involved interested students from across Ireland.
The USI website quotes Vice President of Campaigns, Craig McHugh, who says;
“Students are highlighting a range of issues through these actions today, from having the highest fees in the EU to paying some of the highest rents in Europe.”
“Investing in higher education is not just crucial for students, but it is also a great opportunity at this time. Higher education can act as an instigator for economic development and growth as we emerge from this crisis as for every €1 invested, another €4 is pumped back into the economy,” he adds.
President of the Technological University Dublin Student Union, Rebecca Gorman, sent a letter to the Minister of Education, Simon Harris, explaining the issues arising from the cost of college fees.
Gorman mentions that;
“This is the week marked by actions and reactions to students facing a crisis in their Higher and Further Education Institutions”.
“Students across the island came together to demand the abolition of fees charged to receive an education, through the USI Education for All campaign.”
A majority of students in Ireland, who support the Education for All Campaign, believe that the Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI) grant is not enough to afford to stay in college when Irish students are being charged the highest fees in the EU. She said that students came together “through the USI Education for All campaign” and came to show that “SUSI grants aren’t enough when we are charged the highest fees in the EU.”
“Unfortunately, you have ignored us, Minister. Instead of responding to the calls for action on the unsustainable funding model for the Third Level, you decided to set up a Tik-Tok account,” she adds.
In Gorman’s letter to Simon Harris, she spoke on the behalf of the students and asked the Minister of Education to “show what actions” are going to be taken to address problems students are facing such as: “learning in a pandemic, insufficient grants, and fees that do not match the quality of education we are facing.”
Considering that students must study from home and are not experiencing the full student life, the money Irish students are paying for college is unbelievably high. Socialising and the experience of roaming around college campuses is another reason why people pay to go to college. A University College Dublin (UCD) veterinary student said, “I feel like I am missing out on a big part of college life.”
Irish student representative bodies play a huge part in ensuring college students are treated fairly within the education system. Now it’s the Government’s turn to respond to student action. Let us know what you think should be done with regards to student college fees.