Quinn’s relationship with students and USI will change after Budget Day

By Grainne Coyne and Aishling Phelan

Rumours that university fees will increase to €5,000 next year were just “scaremongering” according to Deputy President of the Union of Students in Ireland (USI), Colm Murphy.

Speaking to the College View, Muphy said, “There is wide speculation in the media in terms of fees of €5,000 next year or postgraduate grants being abolished. That figure of €5,000 is not to be thrown around because it’s scaremongering. We just don’t know what the minister intends to do.”

He said if fees increase and maintenance grants are cut, Education Minster Ruairi Quinn’s relationship with the USI and students will suffer dramatically.

The Minister is refusing to rule out the possibility of scrapping postgraduate grants in next month’s budget.

It was reported that the forthcoming budget would involve cutting postgraduate grants in order to save €2.2 billion.

Quinn published a statement insisting that the current economic circumstances would mean “difficult choices will have to be made.”

Murphy said, “There are limits to Irelands sovereignty now in terms of the EU/IMF bailout, however our own management of taxation and spending are still our own.”

He added, “They will have to look at the serious amount of waste that is there in higher education. There is still vast inefficiency and waste. If they were to cut down on that it would lessen the pressure enormously on the department in terms of raising fees or cutting the grant.”

Quinn said he could not comment on the budget details, but changes to student grants “cannot be ruled out” while the government tries “to control public expenditure and to ensure sustainability in the long run.”

The Education Minister has come under fire after announcements in the last month indicating that further increases in registration fees and cuts to grants are on the way.

USI president, Gary Redmond, staged a symbolic funeral procession from the Department of Education to Leinster House warning of “the death of education” if the proposed education cuts take place.

Member of FEE (Free Education for Everyone) DCU, Derek McKenna, said last week that the USI achieves nothing by staging “photo shoots” to influence government decisions.

“We in FEE do not agree with the USI strategy of one march per year and photo stunts like a camp-out on the Custom House. They engage in photo shoots. It achieves nothing. We need more action but in a non-violent manner.”

Redmond insisted that Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore and Ruairi Quinn should honour the USI pre-election pledge which they signed last February promising to “oppose and campaign against any new form of third-level fees including student loans, graduate taxes and any further increase in the student contribution.”

The USI is currently seeking leave for a judicial review to last year’s revision of grant eligibility criteria, which means students living within 45km of their college are no longer entitled to the higher non-adjacent rate.

Quinn said that he would try to ensure that disadvantaged students were protected by the education cuts contained in this year’s budget but still declined to comment on “any specific proposals.”

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