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Government should have made the €1,000 reduction to the Student Contribution Charge in Budget 2023 a permanent reduction in fees for all students as a move towards abolishing the charge, says the Union of Students in Ireland.

USI and Students’ Unions across Ireland have fought hard for this reduction and today’s announcement is recognition of the extremely high cost of college in Ireland. 

However, while the ‘once-off’ €1,000 reduction is of course welcome, students are left not knowing where they stand for the future. 

And the reduction comes too late for students who have already deferred their places in college this year because they could not afford the costs. 

USI President, Beth O’Reilly said: “Today’s Budget was a missed opportunity to permanently reduce the Student Contribution Charge and start the move towards abolishing fees. In our Pre-Budget submission, USI called for a permanent €1,000 reduction in fees. In these expensive times, this ‘once-off’ reduction will be quickly spent on high rents and soaring costs-of-living. 

“Through this reduction, the Government is recognising that high fees are a barrier to accessing higher education. And the measures set to be introduced to SUSI from next year will not remove the significant barriers that currently face the hardest-pressed students and their families. We need a move towards publicly funded higher education now. We also don’t see any measures in this Budget to address the serious student accommodation crisis, which is making college inaccessible, or an extreme hardship, for many. 

“Without significant action on student housing, including the announcement of a new student accommodation strategy, capital grants for affordable purpose-built student accommodation and rent freezes – along with action on the cost-of-living – these tweaks and changes will not make much of a different to students who are struggling to pay their bills. In practice, the rate of SUSI will only go up by €8 a week for those on the non-adjacent rates.” 

Speaking on the lack of measures for postgraduates in Budget 2023, USI Vice President for Postgraduate Affairs, Waqar Ahmed said: “This is a grossly insufficient budget for PhD researchers in Ireland and has nothing for young researchers. Minister Simon Harris continues to ignore a whole generation of PhD researchers whose working conditions are jeopardising their research, career and lives. 

“PhD researchers in Ireland are living way below the minimum wage or without a stipend. Despite our warnings and recommendations, the situation of thousands of PhD researchers is not addressed in any substantial manner in this budget.”