Will we have fees, or do we already have them?

There were more discussions earlier this week at the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Education and Science about tuition fees and the student service charge, as reported in both the Irish Times and the Irish Independent. Tánaiste Mary Coughlan appeared before the Committee and gave ambivalent answers on whether there might be fees in the future, and was also subjected to some questioning about the future of the student service charge; she did not rule out that this charge might be increased again.

We have been told to expect that the higher education strategic review chaired by Colin Hunt is addressing the fees issue, but we have no real way of knowing what effect, if any, the group’s recommendations may have. The position we may be reaching by stealth is that fees are gradually emerging in the form of service charges. Furthermore, the example of UCC’s conferring charge perhaps suggests that universities could attempt to arrange individual deals with students about how specific charges might be introduced to off-set falling state revenues, though admittedly any such arrangements would have to proceed more smoothly than appears to have been possible in Cork.

The financial position of the Irish universities is now desperate; and there are few signs that this has either been understood by the politicians or that they are prepared to tackle the issue.

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4 Comments on “Will we have fees, or do we already have them?”

  1. Steve Says:

    Whether service charges are called fees or not… for me, the end user so to speak, any charge is a fee. And when I go to the bank to beg for a loan so I can do another year of college, the loan is specifically said to cover ‘college fees’.

    I know there’s a difference between fees and service charges and where it comes from and goes and so on, but from where I’m standing, it’s no real difference. Politicians can call them what they like, doesn’t change what they are, fees that need to be paid before I’m allowed to finish college.

    The fact that she gave ambivalent answers on anything, let alone on whether there might be fees in the future, is no surprise. It’s a sure thing as far as my classmates and I are concerned. There’s nothing stealthy about it. Stealthy implies it’s being done in the dark, so that no-one realises. All they’re doing is a calling a spade a shovel.

    • I agree, Steve, and that’s really what I was saying. With Mary Coughlan not ruling out a service charge increase – assuming for a moment this can be put into practice without attracting the attention of the C&AG – it seems that the debate stuttering along about fees may become redundant. I’m far from sure that this is the way to do it, however.

  2. Mark Dowling Says:

    There are fees and then there are fees.

    If you don’t go to your graduation, you still get a degree. It sucks to have to make that choice, but it’s one you can make.

    Exam fees are iniquitous because you can’t get a degree without taking exams. Fees for stuff like ID cards are wrong because you can’t take your course without them. (Repeat fees are a different matter, as are charges for losing ID cards etc. The taxpayer doesn’t have to subsidise dumbassery)

    In short, any fee which impedes your ability to satisfy mandatory university requirements is a violation of “free fees” – but add on fees are also wrong in an environment with a specified course fee – such as those overseas students pay. Students should be entitled to be able to budget in a free or non-free fees environment without surprise add-ons by university authorities.

  3. kevin denny Says:

    “Exam fees are iniquitous because you can’t get a degree without taking exams”…
    How about? “Cinema tickets are iniquitous because you can’t go to the cinema without buying a ticket”

    Mark, has it occurred to you that university is iniquitous because not everybody gets to go & for those who do its nearly all paid for by someone else? Relative to the benefits of going to university (in financial terms alone, probably several hundred thousand Euro over a lifetime) the exam fees are a trivial amount. Now add in the social & other benefits.

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