Sir, - I am writing with regard to the advertisement in your newspaper (March 7th) announcing an initiative, by the Dublin City University (DCU), designed to relieve pressure on students from disadvantaged backgrounds through the provision of free or subsidised accommodation.

This is a laudable initiative, and the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) is very pleased that the advertisement makes expressly clear that the reasons behind the move are based on the reality that the education maintenance grant is significantly less than the amount required to support a student while attending university. The advertisement proceeds to state that this situation ensures that students from low income backgrounds are inhibited from attending college. USI completely agrees, and it congratulates the college on making a substantial gesture towards redressing inequity in the system.

For many years now, our organisation has been saying that the insufficient maintenance grant (which, according to the DCU's own figures, has decreased by 40 per cent in real terms over the last 19 years) is the single biggest barrier to a fair and accessible education system. The fact that a full grant will not even meet the average cost of rent is the biggest indication of how archaic the system of student financial support actually is.

USI commends the DCU for its actions, which build upon its leading role in addressing the problems leading to poor representation by lower income students in its sector of higher education. We look forward to similar gestures from the other institutions which, we hope, will have the effect of shaming the Government into tackling the problem once and for all. Thanks for leading the way, DCU.- Yours, etc.,

Welfare officer,

Union of Students in Ireland,