The USI says the Programme for Government lacks important details on issues relating to students

Aoibhín Meghen

Image Credit: USI

The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) has said that although they welcome aspects of the proposed Programme for Government the lack of detail on some of the key issues relating to students is concerning.

In particular the USI said that the commitment to keep the student contribution fee at €3000 was not enough and they want the new government to reduce this fee.

Ireland currently has the highest university fees in Europe. When this contribution fee was originally brought in students only had to pay €800 a year, now the figure is almost four times that.

The USI has also commented that while they welcome the parties’ intentions to build more on and off campus student accommodation it is essential that this housing is publicly funded rather than relying on the private market.

The parties have also committed to reviewing the SUSI grant, developing a new funding model for higher education and reducing period poverty. However the USI has stressed the need to undertake these reviews and examinations “with urgency”.

Other aspects of the Programme for Government may indirectly have an effect on the quality of student’s lives. The commitment to a “2:1 ratio of expenditure between new public transport infrastructure and new roads” over the government’s lifetime will hopefully benefit students who commute to and from college.

According to the Central Statistics Office, in 2016, 45 per cent of college students commuting within Dublin used public transport. However outside of Dublin this number was only 24 per cent.

Improvements in public transport and pedestrian and cycling facilities across Ireland could hopefully help to decrease the number of students commuting by car.

The parties have also committed to getting rid of the Direct Provision system within the government’s lifetime,  an issue which has been particular important for students especially in DCU which celebrates its 30th year as a University of Sanctuary this year.

In response to the parties’ commitment, the USI have said: “We are glad to see this commitment in the programme and we will continue to work with others to ensure [Direct Provision] is replaced by a humane and expeditious alternative.”

This Programme for Government was drawn up after months of negotiations between Irish political parties. Since the election in February the parties have been negotiating and the new government will be a coalition between Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and The Green Party.

The Programme for Government document has been given to the three political parties to vote on by the beginning of next week. Fianna Fáil and The Green Party have a one person one vote system, while Fine Gael is voting through an electoral college.

Aoibhín Meghen

Image Credit: USI