Students remain opposed to fees in the face of IMF bailout

By Caitriona Murphy

A poll conducted by Trinity News has shown that Trinity students are still heavily opposed to fees, as the IMF prepares to intervene in Ireland. The poll of 200 students showed that 89.7 percent of students remain opposed to the introduction of full fees up to €10,000. 65 percent of these remained in opposition even if it meant their course resources and materials were drastically reduced, with many commenting that this has already occurred.

Students stressed that for many, the introduction of full fees would force them to drop out of College, or prevent their siblings from ever attending.

Whilst many claimed that they would support fees if a proper means test and grant system came into play, in the present economic situation grants could only be minimal with existing systems already being cut. Anne-Maria McCarthy, an SS English Literature student said: “If they bring in fees, the infrastructure to enable it to be means tested will inevitably be a long process, brought in too late. What will happen to that generation of students? Caught in the midst of bureaucracy – will their futures be the price to pay for red tape?

Prof Frank Barry, Chair of International Business and Economic Development in College, said that while he welcomed the possibility of means testing, he warned that it may be manipulated. “I’d have little problem with introducing means-tested full fees in the current crisis, but means testing used to be roundly abused when it operated e.g. in the 1970s’.

Notably, large number of students, 62 percent, said they would welcome the introduction of a loan system, similar to that in the UK, in order to pay fees. Michelle Hanley, JS Art History and Sociology, commented: ‘‘I think they should be introduced to those not already in college as long as the grant system and student loans were still available for those who need it so it doesn’t become a class situtation’.

Barry said that a system similar to the Australian model, which has already been looked into by the Irish Government, works quite well. The Australian and UK systems ensure that students only start repaying their loans when they have an income that can support repayments.

When questioned on whether Trinity would welcome a loan system and the introduction of fees, College stated, “Due to the financial challenges faced by the university in the current economic circumstances all options of sources of funding are being considered.

“As you are aware the Provost along with the heads of university through the IUA have called for the re-introduction of fees to meet the shortfall in funding of the core grant provided by the Government to the university sector. To date, however, a formal position, has not been taken by the College through the Board in relation to the re-introduction of fees.”

With the IMF currently inspecting the Irish accounts, education stands at a very real risk of suffering major cuts. After this months’ protest the registration is still set to rise, a fact that 63.4 percent of students are strongly opposed to.