Minister for Higher Education needs to stand up for students – Senator Fintan Warfield
Sinn Féin Senator Fintan Warfield today called on the Government to directly intervene in cases where key components of university courses have not proceeded due to Covid-19, and to ask for reductions in fees for the next academic year.
Speaking on the issue in the Seanad today, Senator Warfield said:
“In the absence of a publicly funded third level education system, the Government needs to step in where students have paid large fees and key elements of their courses, such as access to labs, have not gone ahead as planned.
"Today is the first day of the second semester for most students and I am concerned that many who are facing financial difficulty may defer or drop out.
"This is disappointing given that many of them have spent a long time researching and preparing to undertake these courses, including many who have taken out loans or accessed savings to pay the ever-increasing postgraduate fees.
"I acknowledge that fees were set at the start of the academic year and students signed up on the basis of specialist modules or work placements in their field of study. It is nobody’s fault that these had to be postponed, but it is unfair to expect students to have to complete these aspects of their course next year and pay full fees again.
"It is ridiculous to say that the solution lies in charging these students more fees this year or next. Yet this has happened in the case of postgraduate entry medicine at UCD, for example.
"Students did not sign up for online courses at the start of the academic year. This needs to be recognised and reflected in future setting of fees.
"It is unlikely that the universities will do this willingly, so today I asked Minister Niall Collins that the Department of Higher Education intervene to ensure fairness for these students and assist them in completing their studies."