Should we be able to opt out of joining our student unions?

Cian Dunne

An extra levy is included in all student’s fee’s when joining DCU and other colleges, making students automatically members of their Student Unions. 

Despite not having made any use of the Union facilities as of yet, the fee is enforced, leaving a number of students asking whether this should be the case?

With an increase in accommodation fees, along with the already extreme financial strains many students are faced with, is the student union levy an additional burden that is unnecessary? 

UCD held a student referendum on April 1st and 2nd 2019, on whether the student union levy should continue beyond 2023. The students of UCD voted overwhelmingly to extend the levy, which will be used to fund an expansion to the existing student centre services on the west side of campus, as reported by The University Observer. 

In 2017, students of Trinity College also voted to accept the student union levy of €30 per year, which was for the construction of their €7 million student centre, reported by the University Times.

It is clear to see that despite being forced to pay the levy, the majority of college students understand the vast benefits of a well-funded student union. With extra facilities and services available, and when given the choice, students continue to vote for the levy.

DCU’s new state of the art student union centre was opened on 27th of September, 2018. The €15 million centre was completely self-funded through €8 million raised through the student levy, and the balance provided by Tony Ryan Trust, Bank of Ireland, and DCU Commercial activities.

President of DCU Prof Brian MacCraith spoke on the day of the ‘U’ opening, about the influence that student donations can have.

“Today’s opening of ‘U’ represents a major milestone for everyone associated with DCU, a day where our commitment to the personal and professional development of our students is reflected in a magnificent facility”, said Prof. MacCraith. 

“Today is also significant because it demonstrates what can be achieved by partnership and generosity. The ‘U’, which was totally funded by philanthropic donations, with the majority coming from our own students, will transform the lives of tens of thousands of students for many decades to come”. 

Regardless of the benefits of new student centres and well-funded unions, many students are already faced with financial concerns, through college fees, accommodation and cost of living. The added cost of the student union levy only increases their financial strain, and therefore a case can be made for the levy to be optional. 

This will only lead to further difficulty for these universities in raising funds for their developments and launches of centres and other services, which will then, in turn, benefit the students of these colleges. 

The student union levy will continue to split opinion among students. Weighing up the benefits of facilities and services that come with the levy, versus the added financial cost imposed on students, will always be a topic that is heavily debated.

Cian Dunne

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