More than 1,100 university students are calling for compensation for the fees they have paid to study here, citing issues around distance learning, lack of income and no access to facilities.
In a move that could be replicated at many Irish universities, 1,128 students at University College Dublin (UCD) are calling on the university to partially refund them for the disruptions to their courses caused by Covid-19. The majority of these students are international students, who pay up to €37,000 for one year’s tuition.
Switching to online learning for the remainder of your degree when you are paying upwards of €30,000 for a course that usually offers lab and library access is a shock, according to Conor Anderson of the UCD Students’ Union (UCD SU).
‘The University really needs to address the concerns these students are expressing," he said.
Students understand that this is an unprecedented situation but no one in the world would pay that much for an online course, and no university would charge it.
"We need to talk about compensation," he added.
More than 150 students have written to the university directly seeking a rebate of more than a third of the fees paid. None of these requests have been granted, according to the UCD SU.
Irish universities are facing huge losses due to the expected drop-off in international students due to the disruption caused by Covid-19. An initial assessment carried out by the Irish Universities Association (IUA) estimates that the predicted losses in international students will total around €181m.
Aaditya Shah, a UCD international student from India, said he believes the quality of education students have received since the Covid-19 shutdown is not what they signed up for.
As an international student, studying in UCD, my degree has been totally uprooted since UCD closed its campus and I returned to India. There is a major change in the teaching patterns since then, moving from in-class learning to distance learning.
“I am living in a different timezone and I have limited access to resources like high-speed connectivity, access to hard copy of books from the library, meeting facilities to brainstorm on group tasks. Many of the international students have taken out loans to pay the hefty fees that UCD charges and are still paying rent in Dublin. Considering the lesser quality of education we are receiving, we are asking UCD to provide compensation for this.”
While the majority of students who signed the petition at UCD are EU or international students, almost 18% of the 1,128 respondents calling for refunds are Irish.
Students' concerns include the loss of opportunities, interruptions to research as students cannot access labs or archives, and the lack of income.
Students are also concerned about the major change in teaching patterns, from in-class learning to distance learning. They also expressed concerns about connectivity and time-zone differences.
At the time of going to print, UCD had not responded to inquires put to it by the Irish Examiner.