University College Cork Students Union today announced that the college has cancelled the increase of €200 to the Student Capitation Fee and will refund the €80 increase charged this year. This follows a campaign by students to have the increase reversed.
The proposed increase was to be implemented over the course of three years, with incremental increases each year. The fee rose from €170 to €250 for 2019/20, and was set to increase by €40 each year until it reached €370 in 2022/2023. This would then have seen the college earn an additional €2.4 million each year.
In previous years, a referendum had been held prior to an increase of the fee, and the decision to bypass this was criticised in June by the Students Union, who opposed the increase. In a statement they said: “This is extremely disheartening to see and there is still a risk that it can be increased again in the future as there are no measures in place to stop it from going up again in three years’ time.” They also pointed to the cost of campus accommodation, which has risen by €1000 since 2016/17.
The capitation fee is a compulsory payment made by each student, in addition to the student contribution of €3000. It is not covered by the Higher Education Grant Scheme. The fee funds student services and covers membership of the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) and of the college sports centre.
In a statement following the increase, UCC pointed to the increased need for funding of student services. They mentioned mental health services as a priority, and ensured that the increase would directly fund student services.
The Student Union campaigned for the cancellation of the fee, working with the college as well as protesting by occupying the office of the College President. Legal action was also threatened, and the college announced today that the fee would be cancelled, and that the €80 increase for 2019/20 would be refunded to all students.
UCCSU president Ben Dunlea said that he was delighted that the fee was reversed, but expressed disappointment that it was introduced in the first place, and that the decision was only reversed after the threat of litigation was raised; “While the matter may be solved in principle, I would urge that this is taken as an opportunity for universities and the Higher Education Authority to review their decision making processes and accountability mechanisms, so we can avoid this situation ever happening again.”
Trinity currently charges students an additional fee of €120 to pay for membership of the college sports centre as well as an additional €30 to go towards a new student centre.