Students camping out day and night in protest at proposed incoming rent hikes at accommodation owned by their university believe they will remain in their tents on-campus for at least another week.
As the student protest calling for a three-year rent freeze at University College Cork (UCC) enters its fourth day tomorrow, today saw students at both University College Dublin (UCD) and NUI Galway also pitching tents on campus amidst growing frustration over incoming rent increases.
Almost 300 staff members at UCC have publicly signed a petition in support of the protests, saying that the proposed 3% increase to be introduced by UCC in September "cannot be justified".
"Housing affordability is what matters most, and UCC has the responsibility to provide abundant and affordable accommodation to its students and must organise its resources, and priorities, accordingly," the petition states.
UCC students are committed to camping out in the Quad until the university pledges to reverse the incoming increase and freezes rents for the next three years, according to Ciara Kealy, the UCC Students' Union (UCCSU) deputy president. Since Tuesday, almost 20 tents have been pitched and more than 50 students are now involved in the protest on a rotational basis, swapping in and out between lectures.
This is the third such rent increase in recent years introduced by the university. Rents increased by 5% in 2018, and by a further 11% in 2019.
"I don't think anyone would be happy if their rent increased by almost a fifth in a few short years," Ms Kealy said.
"Every time there has been an increase, there has been weeks and weeks of talks between students and the university and they haven't listened. If we don't protest this time, the same thing is just going to happen again.
"We've been told that the chairperson of the UCC board isn't available until next Thursday to meet us. I have a feeling we are going to be camped out here until next Thursday."
Today, students at NUI Galway and University College Dublin also pitched tents in protest at incoming rent increases. UCD Students' Union says a 12% increase, to be introduced over the next three years in 4% increments, will lock young people out of education. At NUI Galway, students said the proposed 4% increase will place another intolerable financial burden on students and their parents.
A UCC spokesman said the university respects the students' right to protest. The UCC board has committed to waiving the increase for students in receipt of hardship funds.
"UCC Campus Accommodation rents are significantly below those of private operators and we intend to keep it that way."
Campus accommodation receives no state funding, he added.
Meanwhile, the University of Limerick has defended its attempt to double up on accommodation by turning single occupancy rooms into twin rooms. In an email to students and staff, UL president Dr Des Fitzgerald said the decision was made following an extensive survey that found 76% of students were willing to share a room. According to UL Student Life, the group representing UL students, these rooms were not designed for two students.