UCC students demand a referendum on fee increase

UCC students demand a referendum on fee increase
Pic: Gavin Browne

The Students’ Union at University College Cork has called for a referendum on plans to more than double the student capitation fee.

UCC is planning to increase its fee from €170 per student per year to €250 for incoming first years this autumn.

The university plans to continue this increase until it reaches €370 in 2023 with this fee to be paid on top of the Student Contribution Charge of €3,000.

Outgoing SU deputy president Kelly Coyle said the increase should have been put to a referendum.

The SU believes a significant amount of the increased fees is to be spent on the sports strategy while the remainder will go towards additional student services such as counselling and health.

“The main issue for us is that this one was not put to a referendum.

“I don’t think that too many students would be against the sports strategy - I certainly think additional sports facilities would be fantastic - but we’re still very much against the capitation increase without a referendum,” added Ms Coyle, who will become the union's equality officer in September.

“It’s so important that student voices are heard on these issues.

“Our argument was pushed aside and we were told that it’s incoming students, not current ones, that will have to pay and so we shouldn’t have a say.

“If we say that only people impacted by a certain issue can vote on it, it changes democracy.

“We vote on issues that will impact ourselves and those to come so regardless of whether it’s current students or future students that will have to pay, this should be put to a vote.” UCC has said the increase is needed to fund student services, including mental health services, such as counselling and support, student health services, the student assistance fund and sport and recreation facilities.

The UCC SU voted down a similar referendum to increase fees and spend the money on sports facilities in recent years.

“I don’t think that UCC is aware of the fact that it is going against the previous referendum but I know that a lot of students are annoyed about it,” said Ms Coyle.

This is the second financial increase affecting UCC students this year.

In January, it was announced that the price of on-campus accommodation would rise for 2019/2020, by between €500 and €630.

It followed another increase in 2018 and means the cost of a single en suite bedroom at the Victoria Mills accommodation complex has gone from €5,260 in 2016/2017 to €6,179 for the coming academic year.

A spokesperson for UCC said the university’s capitation fee has historically been among the lowest in Ireland’s higher education system.

He added that “these fee changes do not pertain to existing students and will be introduced in gradual increments from 2019/20”.

“The current capitation fee is €170 and this will be increased by €80 for 2019/20. The entire increase is €200 over four years.

“Previously the Student Union held a referendum for changes to the capitation fee as these changes applied to existing students.

“UCC has been consistently working with its Students Union on this issue and will continue to work together with its students to ensure student services are supported.”

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