Fees complaint against Academic Registry upheld by Ombudsman

A man complained he had been misinformed about tuition fees by Academic Registry

A complaint against Trinity’s Academic Registry in relation to postgraduate fees has been upheld by the Office of the Ombudsman, as published in the August 2018 edition of the Ombudsman’s casebook.

The complaint, which was completed in October 2017, relates to a man who stated he had received inaccurate information about the fees for his two year Masters course in Trinity.

The case read: “Before accepting the place on the course the man enquired if the cost of tuition fees quoted were for the full two years of the course or an annual fee. The man received an email from the Academic Registry in Trinity confirming that the price quoted was the tuition fee for the full duration of the two year course. The man accepted his place on the course.”

However, after completing the first year of his course, Trinity informed the man that the tuition fee was an annual fee and billed him the same fee again for the second year of his course.

In its report to the Ombudsman, Trinity explained that the fees listed on its website are listed as annual fees and are subject to change, and also said that the man was issued a personal bill when he accepted his place on the course which listed the tuition fee as an annual fee. Additionally, Trinity pointed out the man had previously graduated from a different course in the college and so should have been familiar with their tuition fee arrangements.

However, Trinity offered to refund half of his tuition fees for the second year of the course after acknowledging that the man was misinformed. The report stated: “The man was happy with this outcome and thanked the Ombudsman for his work on this complaint.”

Graduate Students’ Union (GSU) President Oisin Vince Coulter told Trinity News: “This indicates the necessity of the fee certainty agreement, and continued proper communication by College to students about the fees that will pay over the course of their studies. Information on this must be easily available and clearly highlighted at all points.”

Out of the 56 complaints to the Ombudsman included in the casebook, just 17 were upheld, including the case against Academic Registry, with 6 partially upheld. Four other complaints classified as “Education” were not fully upheld, and related to the State Examinations Commission, SUSI and the DARE scheme. Trinity was the only third level institution that a complaint was made against.

College did not respond to a request for comment.

According to its website, the role of the Office of the Ombudsman “is to examine complaints from members of the public who believe they have been unfairly treated by certain public service providers”.

College was heavily criticised recently for its decision to reintroduce and subsequently reverse a 5% increase in fees for postgraduate and non-EU undergraduate continuing students, despite signing a Fee Certainty Agreement following the Take Back Trinity protests.

Niamh Lynch

Niamh was Editor of the 65th volume of Trinity News. She is a History and Politics graduate.