Overcrowding in the computing faculty and campus accommodation rent hikes were among the issues Class Rep Council (CRC) brought to DCU President, Professor Brian MacCraith.
MacCraith put himself in the hot seat and invited questions from the reps in attendance. Three students raised the issue of overcrowding and underfunding in the computer sciences faculty. With one final year computer applications student describing the situation as “dire”.
“Does it concern you .. us going out to workforce with DCU degrees that aren’t up to standard because of the lack of funding that we have?” She probed MacCraith.
“There’s more people than there has ever been and it’s so evident in the lecturing capabilities and resources in the labs,” another student from the faculty added.
MacCraith admitted the faculty was under strain, but said the quality of degrees have not suffered. “I’ll accept that we’re operating at maximum levels but I don’t think we’ve crossed that line yet and that’s why I say there’s need for investment.”
“There are no messages coming to me from industry that the quality of our graduates are diminishing. Our computing students are the most in demand computing graduates of any Irish university and continue to be so.”
The rent increases in campus accommodation were also raised. Economics, Politics and Law student, Sean Cassidy criticised the university’s decision to raise campus rents for a third consecutive year.
“I’ve been doing some analysis on the increase happening in campus res over the past couple of years. Two years ago it was 3 per cent, last year it was three per cent this year it was 10 per cent, actually for DCU students it’s a 10 per cent increase, for anyone sitting in St Pats it’s a 38 per cent increase,” he claimed.
However MacCraith challenged these figures, claiming the rent was set to raise by three per cent. “The figures you have don’t agree with the figures I have and I’m not going to get into a battle with you on that.”
Despite being faced with a barrage of difficult questions, MacCraith said he wouldn’t shy away from addressing students’ issues. “If asked by CRC, I’ll always be available. I’ll never avoid questions. I’ll always be available in that regard. I never want senior management to become disconnected,” he said.
Another rep quizzed the president on the merging of timetables after the amalgamation. MacCraith said the DCU timetable will be the base for the academic calendar going forward with one exception, “We’d like to bring the completion of semester one exams before Christmas,” he said.
During his presentation, MacCraith revealed major renovations planned for the campus.
“All of the contracts have now been signed. We will be announcing a campus development plan worth over €200 million for primarily this campus.”
“We’ve hit capacity problems you’re probably seeing that yourselves in some of your lectures. We need more lecture space. We need more student accommodation. We need more laboratories and so on. To allow that growth, this is loan finance so we’ll take out loans. We’ll negotiate with the European Investment Bank and the Irish Strategic Investment Fund.”
The professor told students plans for the reconstruction of the student centre are at an “advanced stage of the design”.
“It’s going to transform this campus and the student experience on this campus for many decades to come.
He briefly outlined some of the plans for the space, “leadership and life skills centre will be in there; a whole chunk of the floor will be innovation and entrepreneurship; a global section for our global student community; arts and culture spaces; the various media elements of the campus itself will have a section there; clubs and socs of course; the Students’ Union. It’ll be a fantastic building on the campus itself. We start breaking ground on that in June.”
Students will be tasked with naming the new centre. “There will be a competition for students to name the building that will run through the SU.”