Trinity College Dublin Students Union (TCDSU) is to debate and vote on a Students Against Fees (SAF) motion at TCDSU Council on Tuesday January 24, which calls for a strengthening of the Union’s stance on fees and loans, and explicitly mandates a campaign for a publicly-funded system of higher education.
The motion, which is proposed by Conor Reddy, Secretary of Students Against Fees, and seconded by TCDSU President Kieran McNulty, notes that TCDSU “does not have a formal position on how higher education should be funded”. However, the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) does have a policy calling on the government to introduce a publicly-funded system. As a result of a motion in the 2015-16 academic year, the current TCDSU stance is against the further increases of fees only, without advocating a new model of funding.
According to Reddy, that after some hesitation, the motion has the support of TCDSU President, Kieran McNulty, with back and forth taking place between the two groups before reaching agreement on the final motion.
Reddy, who is also the TCDSU Science Convener and the Amenities Officer of Trinity People Before Profit (PBP), said that the group behind the motion realised that the Union “didn’t have a position” on the issue and decided to “put something more solid forward”. The motion calls for a free, publicly funded model of higher education, which Reddy noted was one of the potential options outlined in the Cassells Report which was released in July 2016. “There was no real vision to” the current motion, he said. “It’s time to get off the fence.”
Speaking to Trinity News, McNulty said: “We’re kind of at a crossroads with the higher education funding system at the minute, and it can probably go one of two ways.” He continued: “Loan systems in Britain and Australia have major problems and pitfalls” and “it’s naive to think we could do loans better than the UK, or do it better than Australia”. He emphasised, however, that any move to a single-payer system of higher education “won’t happen overnight”, and that the issue required continued and increased investment in order to increase access and opportunity.
As it stands in the published Agenda to Council, the motion mandates a “formal position against fees and income contingent loans in all forms and that the Union support tax-payer funded, free education for all”. A newer version of the motion also involves a call for “a campaign set up to reform the SUSI grant, expanding the window of eligibility, and also taking into account the increased cost of living in cities”.
Reddy also said that the group is organising for a series of speakers to advocate passing the motion, with both himself and McNulty confident of it passing.