Plans to raise college registration fee by at least €1,000, says USI


THE UNION of Students in Ireland has claimed the Government is planning to reintroduce higher education fees by increasing the level of payments made by students for third-level services.

USI president Gary Redmond said the union was “gravely concerned” that third-level fees would be reintroduced “covertly” by increasing the existing €1,500 cap on the student services charge.

The charge, also known as the registration fee, is levied by higher education institutions to offset the costs of exams, registration and student services.

The amount is agreed annually by third-level institutions in consultation with the Higher Education Authority and the Department of Education.

The USI said yesterday the Government was planning to increase the cap by at least €1,000 for the academic year 2011/2012.

While it is up to each academic institution to set the amount charged, Mr Redmond told The Irish Timesthat State funding for universities and colleges was cut to equal the amount charged by the services fee.

“Two years ago, when it went from €900 to €1,500, all the universities and ITs saw a cut of €600 per student in their budget.

“Certainly the suggestion in the sector is that come budget day the Minister for Finance is going to stand up and allow the universities and ITs to charge €2,500 or €3,000.”

A statement issued by the Department of Education yesterday did not deny that the charge would be increased, but said changes would only be considered “in the course of the estimates process where an increase is intended to bring the amount contributed by students into line with the costs of the range of students services provided”.

Mr Redmond warned of the impact any increase would have on students, and insisted any increase would be viewed as fees “by the backdoor”.

“€1,500 is already an awful lot of money for someone to pay upfront. If that went to €2,500 or €3,000, you would really be getting into the area of fees by the backdoor or fees by any other name. It started off at £190 in 1995 and it has crept up to the €1,500 level it is at now.”