Students occupy UCC president's wing to protest fee increases

Update 5.56pm: Students protesting an increase to the capitation fee at University College Cork (UCC), which is set to more than double by 2023 for incoming students, staged a sit-in at the president’s wing of the university.

Currently set at €170 per academic year, the annual fee is due to increase to €250 for incoming first years in September, continuing to increase until it reaches €370 in 2023.

A group of approximately 20 students, both past and present, attempted to gain access to the Presidents’ office but were unsuccessful.

The group then proceeded to block access to the presidents’ wing with placards, banners and bodies. They vowed to continue their sit-in until a meeting with Prof O’Shea and Prof O’Halloran ended in agreement.

The increase was introduced without a student referendum despite requests from the UCC Students’ Union, according to its deputy president Kelly Coyle.

“The university has said it doesn’t need to put it to a referendum because it will be brought in for incoming students,” Ms Coyle said.

“But it's becoming harder and harder for students to access third level education and this is the second increase brought in at UCC following a 10% increase in student accommodation earlier in the year.”

“The capitation fee is outside of SUSI so the grant doesn’t cover it so it will be a huge issue for students coming from different economic backgrounds.”

Students are more concerned over the lack of consultation with students on the increase, according to UCC SU president Alan Hayes who branded the process “undemocratic”.

“This increase is being introduced with no vote and real student consultation,” he told RTÉ’s Drivetime. "While services are stretched at the moment, “students should be the first port of call."

In a statement, UCC said it has seen increased pressure on the services supported by the capitation fee in recent years.

“In particular mental health services, such as counselling and support, student health services, the student assistance fund and sport and recreation facilities, have all seen increased demand," a spokesperson said.

Services supported by the capitation fee are not funded by the Government, he said, adding that this increased fee will go directly back into student services.

The incremental increase will work out at a cost of €1.53 per week in its first year, he added. “UCC consistently works in collaboration with its students and will continue to work together with its students on this issue.”

Earlier: Protesting students occupy University College Cork president's wing

Update 1.28pm: A group of University College Cork (UCC) students protesting on-campus over an incoming increase in the university’s capitation fee have occupied the president’s wing this afternoon.

Current and past UCC students, as well as members of the Union of Students in Ireland (USI), are on campus protesting the move, which will see the annual fee increase from €170 to €370 by 2023.

This fee, which will increase by €80 this September, will also not be covered by the SUSI grant.

The group currently occupying the wing is refusing to move until they meet with UCC president Professor Patrick O’Shea and deputy president Professor John O'Halloran this Wednesday.

They are also refusing to move until they have an agreement that their demands will be met, according to Michelle Byrne of the USI.

According to UCC Students’ Union president Alan Hayes, the students’ demands include stopping the fee increases for incoming students and to allow the student union to hold a referendum on the issue.

The students are also asking for UCC to commit to holding referenda for future decisions that impose on accessing education and to commit to lobbying the government for investment in higher education.

UCC has previously said the increase is needed to fund student services, which have seen increased pressure in recent years.

"In particular mental health services, such as counselling and support, student health services, the student assistance fund and sport and recreation facilities, have all seen increased demand."

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