Oct 5, 2021

USI Calls for €1,000 Fee Reduction in Budget 2022

The union’s pre-budget submission calls for investment of €500 million in the third-level sector in 2022.

Mairead MaguireNews Editor
Alex Connolly for The University Times

The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) is to call for the student contribution charge to be reduced by €1,000 in its submission to the government ahead of Budget 2022.

The union’s pre-budget submission, which was obtained by The University Times in advance of its publication, calls for an investment of €500 million in the third-level sector in 2022, including a fee reduction for all students, an expansion of the SUSI grant scheme and the introduction of a new land tax to alleviate the effects of the accommodation crisis.

The document says: “As of February 2020, Ireland charges the highest Higher Education fees in the EU, currently standing at €3,000. Students studying at undergraduate level in Ireland are paying the highest baseline cost across the EU.”


“This is in stark contrast to the picture across EU member states, most of whom charge much lower fees, with many charging no fees whatsoever.”

Alongside a fee reduction, the union asks that the SUSI grant be increased and expanded.

“If Ireland wishes to continue to be seen as a world leader in Higher Education, it must take action to ensure all students have the opportunity to access Higher Education”, the document says.

It asks that eligibility criteria be expanded so that anyone over the age of 18 can be assessed as “independent” if they meet all the criteria. It also calls to abolish the residency rule, which would allow asylum seekers and returning emigrants to access SUSI.

Eligibility would also be extended to students who have previously commenced but not completed a course, without the five-year rule that is currently in place.

The union asks that the “two-tiered” tax system on the €250 coronavirus grant to students be remedied.

“Whilst those receiving the payment via SUSI will have it considered as a non-taxable income, this will not be the case for those whose payment is made by their HEI”, it said. “This in effect creates a two-tiered system, meaning that some students will be taxed for the €250 payment they have received.”

Around 116,500 students not in receipt of SUSI will receive the payment from their college by the end of the year.

Other demands in the submission include a new bursary for students on placement, a further investment of €28 million in mental health supports and the introduction of a new type of land tax to help solve the student accommodation crisis.

The bursary for students on placement would be a non-means-tested bursary paid weekly via SUSI.

Postgraduate stipends would also be increased, “ideally in line with the living wage, or at the very least to reflect the National Minimum Wage”.

Last month the union staged a sleepout protest outside Leinster House to highlight the student accommodation crisis. In its pre-budget submission, the union said: “While supply is important and over time will assist in stabilising market prices, the focus on securing student accommodation from private developers has led to the prioritisation of profits and leave students paying very high prices for basic accommodation.”

It calls to replace the current property tax with a site value tax, which it says “would be a far more productive and equitable form of taxation that would generate revenue for the exchequer from our country’s main source of wealth, land.”

The submission asks for an additional investment of €28.5 million in mental health services to ensure there is a mental health nurse and a counsellor or psychologist per 1,000 students in every Higher Education Institution (HEI).

It also asks for a GP and a public health nurse per 1,000 students in every HEI at the combined cost of €31 million.

Other investments under “Health and Welfare” include €300,000 to further implement the Consent Framework and at least €18 million to provide universal free contraception.

The union calls for increased funding from the state and less reliance on philanthropy and other non-exchequer sources of income for the sector.

“Our institutions should not be in a space where they rely so heavily on private sources of income – the state must fund the system to the levels required to ensure a high quality education system for all students”, it said.

“The current student staff ratio is among the highest in the EU and investment of €147.480 million per annum is required to bring Irish higher education institutions in line with international best practice of 15:1.”

In the new National Development Plan launched yesterday, the government highlighted “non-exchequer investment” as a key source of funding for higher education, with an anticipated €2 billion in funding through streams such as philanthropy and the European Investment Bank.

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