College staff’s children educated for free

Thousands of university staff, including senior lecturers and college heads who earn six-figure salaries, are entitled to have their children’s college fees paid by the State as a perk of the job.

Information gained from Irish universities shows that under the fee remission scheme, all full-time staff — from security guards to college presidents — who were given permanent contacts before Sept 30, 1992, are entitled to have their children educated for free.

In the vast majority of cases, this perk covers undergraduate registration fees and postgraduate fees which can cost up to €10,000.

It also allows a child of an employee at UCD, NUI Galway, UCC, NUI Maynooth, or TCD to study in another one of these universities and have their fees covered. This means the child of a UCC lecturer earning €85,000 can have their child’s postgraduate study at TCD fully subsidised.

The figures released to the Irish Examiner, some under the Freedom of Information Act, show:

* At TCD, 480 employees are entitled to this perk, as they have been permanent for the last 20 years. Last year, up to €152,087 in fee payments were waived for TCD staff, with €74,156 claimed for undergraduate registration and undergraduate course fees. More than €33,000 in fee payments were waived for parents who had children studying at postgraduate level. The remainder was paid so employees’ children could study in other universities;

* At UCC, 431 staff members can avail of the perk. A spokesman for UCC said that “payment for fees for children of staff amounted to approximately €240,000 last year but the concession is diminishing over time as less staff members are eligible”;

* At NUI Galway, 94 staff availed of the perk in the past year, and a total of €185,770 was forgone by the college due to staff members’ children studying at the university. A further €25,976 was paid by the university so staff members’ children could complete degrees at another university;

* A total of €69,175 in fee remissions were sanctioned by NUI Maynooth for the graduate year Oct-Sept 2011;

* DCU said 13% of their full-time staff, or 154 employees, are entitled to this waiver and that in 2011/12, €21,000 approximately was forgone in fees;

* The fee waiver is only in place for undergraduate courses at UL. It can not be used for postgraduate study. At UL, 229 staff can apply for free fees, and in the last academic year €2,680 was paid out by UL under the scheme;

* At UCD, 30 staff availed of the perk last year and €66,616 in fees was waived. At UCD, officials have put a cap on the amount of postgraduate fees that can be waived.

Union of Students of Ireland vice-president Colm Murphy described the fee remissions scheme as “simply disgraceful”.

“For years we’ve campaigned for equity of access to college,” he said. “This perk is the absolute opposite and the very type of thing that the Croke Park Agreement should be abolishing.”

According to NUI Maynooth, any staff in receipt of fee remissions are charged benefit-in-kind on the total amount paid under the scheme.

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