USI warns on return of student fees


The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) has said the reintroduction of higher education tuition fees would force thousands of students to drop out of colleges and universities.

The USI was responding to suggestions that an advisory group examining the issue was likely to back new student fees.

In a series of recent briefings, the group’s chairman Dr Colin Hunt acknowledged the financial crisis facing higher education and stressed the urgent need for what he called new forms of “non-State funding”.

His comments have been interpreted as support for tuition fees.

It is widely expected the Hunt report will call for a new system of student fees, most likely through some form of graduate tax.

But the USI said today it strongly disagreed with Dr Hunt’s opinion that new forms of “non-State funding” are necessary to solve the financial crisis facing Irish third level institutes.

“Tuition fees, in the form of a graduate tax or in any other guise, will only prevent thousands of people from accessing higher education, and will force thousands of students to drop out of colleges and universities,” the organisation said.

The USI said it was concerned leaks from the report prior to publication was “a kite-flying exercise to garner public support on the issue”.

Student unions' leaders are meeting this week in Galway for the USI’s annual seminar and the union said it would continue to campaign against fees.

USI president Gary Redmond said: “In light of the devastating recession the country is currently facing, education needs to be the main focus of our economic recovery plan.

“This means widening participation in higher education and not reducing it .The return of college fees, disguised as a tax on graduates or in any other form, will only stunt Ireland’s recovery,” he said.

“Tuition fees will act as a major barrier to higher education. We need to encouraging people to up skill, not prevent them from doing so”.