Analysis: International students returning to Irish universities during Covid-19 face high costs

Some Trinity students could pay as much as €950 for two weeks bed and board on campus

International students from countries that are not on the green list are required to restrict their movements for 14 days after their arrival. International students in this situation are likely to be dependent on their universities to support them during this two-week period.

In June, Dr Kevin Mitchell, Dean of Undergraduate Studies, promised prospective students: “If you are planning to stay in Trinity accommodation all support in terms of shopping, meals and laundry will be provided.” 

Earlier this week, Trinity News reported that students staying in Trinity accommodation would be provided with a meal service priced at €350 for two weeks’ food – the equivalent of €25 per day. 

The meal delivery service was criticised by students for its expense, which will cost per day the same price that some students would see at the end of their weekly grocery bill. Students staying in Trinity-sponsored accommodation such as Kavanagh Court or Binary Hub are not eligible for the meal delivery service and so must get their groceries delivered to their apartments. It is unclear whether the meal delivery service is optional or mandatory for students in Trinity Halls or on-campus accommodation. 

Other universities around Ireland have had varying approaches on how to support their international students. Most universities, including Trinity, are providing a free transport service from the airport to accommodation for international students who must restrict their movements and so cannot use public transport. 

University College Dublin (UCD), University College Cork (UCC), and National University of Ireland Galway (NUIG) are not providing a meal service for students, with self-isolating students expected to organise their own grocery deliveries. University of Limerick (UL) does offer a meal service, priced the same as Trinity’s at €25 a day, but it is an optional extra and students can instead choose to order grocery deliveries independently. 

Alongside groceries, accommodation is another factor international students must take into consideration. Students need to arrive two weeks before College returns to allow time to self-isolate. This is two more weeks of expenses, and some students in private accommodation may have contracts which start later than they need. 

In Trinity, students who are living in Trinity-owned accommodation this year are allowed to come back two weeks earlier than planned, but will need to pay for those two weeks. Rooms in Trinity Hall start at €206 per week, while the cheapest rooms on campus start from €175 per week. Uninest, which owns Kavanagh Court, is offering students two weeks of accommodation for free if they need to self-isolate. Students who plan to live in private accommodation this year were not provided with accommodation for the period of isolation.

UCD is allowing all students to use on-campus accommodation to self-isolate in, regardless of whether they would go on to private accommodation after the two-week period. The accommodation will be free until September 9, but after that will cost €41 a night, which is €574 for 14 days. 

UCC is providing on-campus accommodation if necessary for all students, priced at €344 for the two-week period. UL is only allowing students who will be living on-campus for the year to stay on-campus for their self-isolation period but they will be accommodated free of charge. NUIG will be charging their students for the two-week period, but have made deals with multiple hotels so that international students will have somewhere to stay to restrict their movements.  

Returning to College in the age of Covid-19 is proving an expensive venture for many international students. Students staying in Trinity accommodation will automatically be provided with a bedroom linen packet and a kitchen packet, at combined cost of €135, unless they specifically request it not be provided. Taking into consideration these packets, the meal service, and rent, it could potentially cost a student staying on campus accommodation or in Trinity Halls anywhere between €650 and €950 for two weeks of self-isolation.

The upcoming academic term is set to begin on September 28 this year, with international students from countries not on the green list encouraged to be in Ireland by September 14 at the latest, to allow for self-isolation. 

Kate Glen

Kate Glen is a News Analysis Editor for Trinity News. She is a Senior Sophister History and Political Science student.