Students to vote on third level education funding models

A referendum on which higher education funding model students want the Students’ Union to lobby for will be held in DCU next Wednesday and Thursday, November 21st and 22nd.

Students will be asked to choose between five different funding models. The five options are the introduction of means tested tuition fees, the introduction of a graduate tax, the introduction of a student loan scheme, a student contribution fee of 3,000 euro and the introduction of a fully free system funded by conventional taxation.

The referendum was mandated by the student council to be held this semester, after a similar referendum held last year was declared null and void by former Students’ Union President, Ed Leamy. The voting system used was deemed to be in breach of the DCU SU Constitution.

Steve Conlon of the Electoral Committee told The College View the committee has taken steps to avoid a repeat of last year. Firstly, the committee will go to Class Representative Council (CRC) for them to agree with recommendations from the electoral committee.

“Because the electoral commit tee is a sub-committee council, it’s not appropriate for us to take on board just the president’s position in relation to the constitution.

“I’m going to ask council to define a number of issues”, which include the definition for voting, the voting process and who and what quorum is for all elections and referenda.

Conlon said while he fully respects the position of the SU President, Paul Doherty, “it is more appropriate as a sub-committee of council for us to go to council to seek their opinion than to go to the president.”

Voting will be done by PRSTV (Proportional representation through the single transferable vote) under the DCU SU constitution.

Conlon told The College View: “It is going to be run like it’s a single-seat con stituency, which means that we’ll have five positions and until we reach the quota we’ll be knocking off the lowest vote, then the lowest vote etc. So at the end, officially, the one with the highest votes or reaches quota first will be the official position of the Stu dents’ Union from that point on.”

The funding model, which reaches the quota first or receives the most votes by not reaching the quota, will be announced as the official position of the SU. 11,253 students are eligible to vote in the election.

Only four groups have reg istered with the electoral com mittee to run campaigns for a specific funding model DCU Ogra Fianna Fail, DCU Young Fine Gael, Labour DCU and DCU Socialist Party. Conlon told us not all of them have decided yet which model they will campaign for. Official registration of campaigns is now closed and Conlon told The College View anyone or any group found running a campaign will be in breach of electoral regulations and the committee will take whatever action is necessary. However in the case that one of the models may not be represented at hustings on Monday November 19th (Venue TBC), there is the possibility that a group may argue on its behalf.

“If we find that one of the funding models isn’t being rep resented and an individual group think they could represent it, for the hustings only in the interest of fairness, and I will need to run it by the person that will be chairing it, I will envisage that it won’t be a problem”.

The Students’ Union also plans to run a balanced information campaign.

Conlon stressed the importance of the referendum and encouraged students to use their vote and make an informed decision. “The key thing I would ask everyone to do is read up, you just need to google these things and you’ll get the information you want. Ask the Students’ Un ion for information, ask the campaigns and challenge the campaigns on their position if you don’t agree with it or if you do agree with it, get out and campaign with them, get registered on their campaigns and get out there.

At the end of the day this is the position that your Students’ Un ion is going to take.”

Students will need to bring their student ID cards or a letter of registration from the registry office to the polling station to cast their vote. Conlon hopes there will be a polling station in every school building on campus and the one in the Hub will be open on Wednesday from 9am 10pm and Thursday from 9am to 5pm.

Counting will begin at 6pm on Thursday evening once all posters have been removed from campus by the campaigns and Conlon hopes to have a result by 11pm.

Aoife Mullen

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