Fianna Fáil promise to freeze student fees according to their 2020 election manifesto.
Irish students currently have the second highest third-level fees in Europe, with undergraduate students having to pay €3,000 per year. Fianna Fáil is not the only party to say they don’t intend on increasing student fees, as Minister for Education Joe McHugh told the Sunday Independent back in August it would stay the same.
McHugh’s comments came shortly after the Irish Universities Association said they needed an extra €117 million for basic operations. It appears Fianna Fáil are attempting to meet these demands, as their manifesto also includes a proposal of providing an additional €100 million per year for higher education funding.
“We will: Commit to an additional €100 million of exchequer funding per annum pending the result of the [European] Commission’s ongoing review,” they said. Along with this, they plan on establishing a new department of higher education and research.
For postgraduate students, they plan on restoring postgraduate grants – costing €44.1 million – which will “completely reverse the Fine Gael cutbacks.”
Additionally, they’ve also said they will increase the Student Assistance Fund by €4.9 million and the undergraduate maintenance fee (part of SUSI) by 20 per cent – costing €34 million according to their manifesto.
As part of their plan on increasing links with Northern Ireland, they stated they wish to enhance shared public services. This includes building “education links” with Dundalk and Letterkenny IT and opening up universities to more students across the border.
Internationally, Fianna Fáil wishes to expand the EU interrail initiative, and that “additional steps should be taken to allow students with a disability to fully access the scheme.” No specifics are given as to how help would be provided to disabled students though.
DCU Fianna Fáil society was asked for a comment, and chairperson Katie Ralph said: “We’re satisfied that the proposals in the manifesto, pending the findings of the European Commission, are a good stepping stone to building an open and accessible third level education sector.” They did not address whether Fianna Fáil should go further than simply freezing student fees, but actually lowering them.
Brendan Fernando Kelly Palenque
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