At least €800,000 will have to be saved somewhere else if €450 repeat exam fees are not introduced, protesting students at Trinity College Dublin have been told.
Dozens of students occupied the university dining hall yesterday morning and were still inside last night as they escalated protests that began last week.
The main issue concerns TCD’s decision to introduce a €450 fee for repeating exams from 2019, which could affect around 1,700 out of 12,000 undergraduates.
The protests have seen tourists prevented from visiting the world-famous Book of Kells.
The organisers said the decision to press ahead ignores an 82% rejection by students of repeat exam fees being introduced.
That proposal was for a charge of €200 per exam, with an upper limit of €1,000, but the €450 flat fee is instead being introduced as an alternative.
A number of other additional charges to different student categories are also on the list of issues that the protesters want addressed.
“The occupation is to show the college that we will no longer stand for the commercialisation of students and to protest any increase to accommodation fees, postgraduate or international fees,” a ‘Take Back Trinity’ statement said.
TCD vice-provost Chris Morash said the fees for supplemental exams are being introduced to replace what was considered an unfair system.
Currently, students who fail an exam on one or more modules must repeat and pay for all modules, even those that they have passed, which typically costs around 250 students a year €6,000 each.
This generates over €1m a year for TCD, but Prof Morash said around €200,000 less would be paid by students under the flat fee payable for one or more repeat exams.
He added that students availing of some access programmes would be exempt from the €450 fee and a fund is being set up to help anyone in financial hardship because of the decision.
“We still think that what is proposed is fair, it spreads the cost more broadly,” said Prof Morash. “It means a larger group of students pays something, but they each pay less.”
He told the Irish Examiner that he spoke with the protest leaders for two hours yesterday afternoon and he hopes that progress can be made through negotiations.
“It’s certainly worth talking about if there’s a viable proposal, I’d be interested in seeing any suggestions,” he said.
But with TCD running a €4.9m deficit, Prof Morash said, most or all of the lost revenue from scrapping repeat-year fees would have to be found from somewhere.
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