Students protest tuition fees plan

THOUSANDS of third-level students voiced their opposition to the re-introduction of tuition fees by marching to the Dáil yesterday.

Groups from colleges around the country converged on the capital and warned they might not pay any fees if the Government decides to reverse the decision to abolish fees in 1995.

Education Minister Noel Dempsey is reviewing third-level support services and has said he favours bringing back course fees for students whose families can afford them.

However, a final decision on the plan which was due before Christmas, is now not expected until the end of this month at the earliest.

The Government attracted huge anger by adding 69% to the cost of third level registration last summer, and the recent announcement of the abolition of the Summer Jobs Scheme for students.

Union of Students in Ireland president Colm Jordan led yesterday’s Fight Fees demonstration and told the rally outside the Dáil that the return of fees would send inflation spiralling.

“This would act as a serious threat to partnership, while seriously compromising the competitiveness of our economy,” he said.

USI campaigns officer Noel Hogan accused the Government of lies and deceit since it entered office and said fees and loans would further polarise the haves and have-nots.

Fine Gael education spokesperson Olwyn Enright joined the student protest and called on Fianna Fáil and PD TDs to confirm their views on the fees issue.

“No one believes this issue is genuinely being examined from an equality perspective, rather it is obvious that it is just another backdoor revenue-raising exercise by this Government,” Ms Enright said.

Mr Dempsey has said that part of the aim of the funding review is to improve access to third level education for people from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Labour’s education spokesperson Jan O’Sullivan said if the Government is so anxious to increase third-level funding, it should begin with an overhaul of the grants system and use the tax system to support students and colleges.

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