Students from NUI Galway have slammed the university's decision to charge them almost €300 to repeat an exam online from home.
NUI Galway charges a €295 repeat exam fee, regardless of how many exams the student is resitting. This means the college's repeat fee is already one of the highest in the country, with other universities only charging students a fee per exam.
NUI Galway's student union is calling for the university to waive the fee for this year, given the extenuating circumstances of Covid-19.
The student union criticised the university for charging the fee at a time when many students struggled to adapt to online learning and new exam formats.
"Students who have failed an exam will have to pay €295 for the pleasure of sitting the repeat exam in their own bedroom," said Pádraic Toomey, president of the NUI Galway student union.
"We are in extraordinary times where students have not had access to learning facilities like the library and face-to-face teaching, and many have struggled as a result.
"On Tuesday they sent out an email saying the fee would be there, I met with the president on Thursday morning. He was very firm that there were still costs involved with running the exams, and it's the 'only way'.
There was no indication that they were even going to review it. I was personally shocked.
Mr Toomey said he didn't understand what costs could be involved, as he assumed lecturers would be paid to set and correct repeat exams as part of their salaries. He also said there would not be the usual costs of invigilators, supervisors, printing of papers, or hiring of venues.
"Trinity, UCC, Queen's, Maynooth, DCU, GMIT — all of them have waived their repeat exam fees. What's also interesting is that St Angela's [in Sligo], which is part of NUI Galway, has gotten rid of the fee.
"It's affecting students. The students who are sitting these repeat exams aren't the ones with great broadband, they had to do an exam in awful situations, they might not have had study space or a strong internet connection. And now they have to come up with almost €300 to do a repeat.
"I've contacted all Galway City TDs, so hopefully we will get some support from them."
In a statement, NUI Galway said: "We are here for our students and, for those who are in difficulty, there are a range of supports available.
"Our university is mindful of the financial challenges faced by our students at this time, and we have been doing our utmost to support students in need through our financial aid fund, which has been extended this year, and through other means such as for example early refunds of rents to students leaving our accommodation because of Covid-19, by being more lenient with regard to programme deferral and by applying a more flexible policy of refunding deposits for our programmes.
"Furthermore, students who are in the most need of financial support can apply for a fee waiver for repeat exam fees."
When asked what costs could be incurred from students sitting exams online from home, given there are no invigilators to be paid, no papers to be printed or physical venues to be hired, NUI Galway said: "There is no fee for deferrals, and the repeat exam fee, which is unchanged from last year, supports all costs associated with repeats, from the setting and correcting of assignments in a more challenging context this year, to the hosting of exams online and the awarding of results.
"By supporting the cost of repeat exams in this way, this cost is not cross-subsidised by other students or drawing on other resources that the University devotes to and for our students.
"As always, we wish our students the very best of luck in their exams and look forward to welcoming them back for their continuing studies or for graduation in the autumn."