Belfast Telegraph

USI warning on university fees hike

The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) has warned that a hike in university fees and the abolition of the postgraduate grant announced in the Budget will exclude thousands of would-be students from education.

USI president Gary Redmond said the Government's credibility lies in tatters, particularly as the Labour Party has reneged on its pre-election pledge to protect students.

"The promises laid out in glossy election manifestos, which were loudly trumpeted by candidates less than nine months ago, now lie in tatters along with the credibility of this Government's stated aim of building long-term sustainable economic growth," said Mr Redmond.

Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin announced a hike in annual university registration fees by 250 euro, to a total 2,250 euro.

He said this increase would allow the Government to make savings of 18.5 million euro - part of the total 2.2 billion euro of savings he announced through public spending in the first half of the Budget.

Mr Redmond, who has organised a string of protests against education cuts in the run-up to the Budget, slammed the 250 euro hike. "This regressive and short-sighted measure will exclude thousands of would be students from education," he said.

Mr Howlin also announced the complete abolition of maintenance grants for some postgraduates, who will have to take up a loan to finance their studies instead. Changes to postgraduate support will deliver savings of 12.6 million euro, he said.

The USI said without sufficient numbers of postgraduate students, Ireland will lose out on a research and development sector which it is claimed is vital to the country's economic recovery.

The Government announced total education cuts of 132.3 million euro. Those will include reductions in spending on trainee and apprenticeship schemes.

Sinn Fein TD Mary Lou McDonald said the Government's registration fee hike would result in only the elites having access to a third-level education, while Fianna Fail Senator Averil Power criticised the Government's abolition of the postgraduate grant as a retrograde step.

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