The University College Dublin student’s union (UCDSU) announced on Wednesday July 22nd that they “fully support” Medical Students calls for a freeze on the fees for graduate medicine students, which have been increasing annually since 2017. In a statement released by UCDSU, Campaigns and Engagement Officer Leighton Grey said “UCDSU will do whatever we can to amplify the voices of our students who have stood at the frontlines of the COVID-19 crisis” and called on University College Dublin (UCD) to implement the fee’s freeze immediately, criticising UCD’s “unfair treatment of our future doctors”.

The UCD fee’s page states that both EU and non-EU students entering graduate medicine since 2017 will be subject to “annual increases of between 2-4%.” For EU and Irish students, the course fees for graduate medicine have risen from €15,350 in 2018/19 to €16,290 for the 2020/21 year. For international students, fees increased from €53,000 to €55,140. There is no mention of how long these annual increases will be in place for and no reason for the increase is given.

The graduate medicine course is not alone in UCD courses whose fees have increased over recent years. Figures obtained from the UCD fees website show that both the graduate and undergraduate course of Veterinary Medicine, for EU and Non-EU students, are also subject to course fee increases of between 2-4% since 2019. Other postgraduate courses in UCD have also been subject to increases. The fee’s page on the UCD website states that the fees for EU programmes, including postgraduate taught and research, “have seen an increase of approximately 4% from year to year”. For example, the two-year Higher Diploma in Psychology rose from €8375 for year 1 and €6785 for year 2 in 2018/19 to €8895 and €7210 for each year respectively in 2020/21. an overall increase of just under €1000.

For the Masters in Biopharmaceutical Engineering, there has been an increase in fees from €7640 in 2018/19 to €8085 in 2020/21. While these year on year increases may have gone unnoticed in previous years, with the next college term expected to be predominantly online for most students, this incremental increase in fees may not sit as easily with some.

The petition calling for the fee’s freeze for Graduate Entry Medicine students was launched on on July 14th. Describing the course fees as “outrageous”, the petition page raises concerns about the transparency of the decision to increase fees, which they claim “was made by UCD without the input of students”. The page also claims that the increase in fees “has not shown any benefits to students” and that they “have not been provided with information regarding where their money is being spent. The page asserts that the decision to increase fees “was made by UCD to benefit their staff at the expense of students” and that there have been no changes in curriculum, in services provided to students or expansion in library services. The petition has 240 signatures so far. UCD have so far declined to comment on the issue.

Sadhbh O’Muirí