Students prepare to vent their frustration with tuition fees, the housing crisis and the cost of higher education.
Today marks the start of three days of regional student events organized by the Students’ Union of Ireland (USI) which will take place in Cork, Galway and Dublin.
Students from Cork, Limerick, Kerry, Waterford and Carlow will gather at the Grand Parade Library today at 2 p.m. ahead of protests on Molesworth St, Dublin, and the Spanish Arch, Galway, Tuesday and Wednesday.
The protests are part of the USI ‘Cost of College’ campaign, which includes two sub-campaigns highlighting key issues for students: a dire lack of student accommodation and frustration over the € 3,000 student contribution.
“The main costs of university for students are the high rents and the € 3,000 in tuition,” said John Fortune, USI’s vice president for the southern region, which represents 60,000 students.
John O’Halloran, president of University College Cork, recently called the € 3,000 fee cheap.
Mr. Fortune said the comments were out of step with the reality of the students.
As previously stated by the, during a business breakfast at the Cork Room, Mr O’Halloran said: “One of the messages that people have told me, and it won’t be popular,” but why the education so cheap? Why is it only 3,000 € per year? “‘It’s a tough subject, but some people will pay more than that for high school today and when they come to college, they’ll pay less.”
Mr Fortune said a food bank set up by the UCC student union recently ran out of food in less than an hour.
“It’s a very difficult situation for students in Ireland right now,” said Fortune. “I think there is a lot of talk that this is a ‘Dublin problem’, in terms of housing, but the housing crisis has reached an all time high in the southern region.”
“We have never seen Waterford in such a bad situation; Limerick is also shocking for accommodation at the moment.”
Waterford still has 100 students looking for accommodation, he added.
“They’re shuttling up and down; there are stories of students surfing on a couch, sleeping in cars,” Mr. Fortune said.
Rent caps are not helping students, he added, and the pandemic has had an impact on rental supply.
When students moved out of student accommodation due to Covid-19, new tenants moved in and in many cases the accommodation was not returned to the student market.
Through its “Cost of University” campaign, the USI calls on the government to abolish the student contribution of € 3,000.
It also calls for a reform of the SUSI scholarship system, in order to ensure a fair evaluation of students and an increase in income thresholds.
The union is also calling for funding and a plan to develop more affordable and purpose-built student housing and rent controls, as well as legislation and other measures needed to keep beds in student housing.