Leftist students for social progress.

Category: No More Fees

Commercialization of Trinity College Dublin – Profiteering from Students

WHERE IS OUR MONEY GOING?

The accounts of Trinity College Dublin for 2020-2021 state a surplus of € 20.7 million.

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If the aforementioned figures are correct, what on earth is a university doing to make a € 20.7 million surplus a year?

Who is profiting from these surpluses and reserves, and how are they being spent?

The topic of this flyer is commercialization. While senior management have undoubtedly played a huge role in driving commercialisation of the sector, the government is also at fault. The philosophy of the private sector applied onto education is at the root of many issues that we face, such as underinvestment in mental health supports, discriminatory accommodation strategy, fee increases and the lack of protective measures for students.

Tuition fees for third-level were abolished in the mid-1990s, however, this has resulted in the government being tempted to slowly cut funding.

While student numbers increased, so did taxpayer’s investments into universities, but the overall money available per-student has been decreasing. For example, spending per student at third-level decreased from €10,806 in 2007 to €7,089 in 2016, a drop of 34.4%.

This is despite the fact that between 2007 and 2016, public spending on education increased by 5.1%. It is simply not enough, and this has resulted in the corporatization of universities, where they have to make up for the loss of state funding by operating like for-profit businesses, cutting courses and downsizing services like counselling.

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TCD ACCOUNTS STATE A RESERVE OF € 812 MILLION

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WITH € 174 MILLION IN CASH…

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Money-making is at the heart of these pursuits. So, for example, with the lack of hybrid learning, it can be tied to factors such as:

Institutions require the in-person foot-fall to justify operating expenses (e.g. maintenance, running costs, salaries) or otherwise the government or other funding parties will provide a smaller budget next year.
if students were not in-person, they would not spend on university facilities, accommodation of 10,000€+ and the likes.
Real estate development and buildings for teaching or other purposes to impress donors for philanthropic donations are a necessary part of fundraising for the modern university. (add capital expenditure)
Costs associated with the implementation of hybrid learning and equipment necessary for it, such as cameras or mics. Many universities partially outsource their IT Support for cheaper and this would have to change if digital learning were to become a core part of learning.

This is otherwise known as the profit motive. Let’s take a look at a couple more examples of how this affects us as students.

Accommodation

The profit from Trinity residences, including Trinity Halls, Kavanaugh Court and much of the on-campus accommodation, totaled around € 10 million in 2021. The rent for a student to stay in one of these residences can be above € 10,000 a year. With that in mind, the extortionate pricing of student accommodation has to come under serious scrutiny. It’s time we start asking why the accommodation is being run at such levels of profit. The only charges, if any given the already incredibly high student fees, should be just enough to cover maintenance and repairing costs. Nothing more.

It is also worrying that students have no rights in these accommodations, enjoying only the legal protections that a hotel would have.

Recently, College have sent emails to staff and alumni asking them to rent out digs, which have little to no protections, for tax rebates of up to € 14,000 a year through the neoliberal government’s Rent-A-Room scheme. This will mean that students would have to pay up to that extortionate amount to stay in one of these places.

Perhaps the most obscene display is that while the student rate for the summer – extensions and early arrivals – ranges from 24.82 to 34.13 per day, Trinity is clearly exploiting and advertising to vulnerable students sitting reassessment at 45 a night. This is appalling, and the rate should be reduced, since we should be supporting students doing resits.

Mental Health

Despite the high surpluses being run by Trinity, and the massive reserves which they sit on, many vital student services have been underfunded to the detriment of students. One of the key concerns highlighted by students is the months-long waiting times at College Counselling and Health Services. College should properly fund our welfare supports from the money they control.

Tuition Fee

Year on year, our tuition fees increase. The most recent fee increase is 2.3% over a 4-year period for non-EUs and postgraduate students, with a fee freeze in 2022-2023 but starting in 2023-2024. This will come out to an around 10% fee increase, worth € 2000 to € 5000 euros over the course of study. A non-EU international student in Dublin can already be expected to pay around € 30,000 to € 50,000 just for the tuition fee and rented accommodation. That is insane. To have the audacity to further increase this is beyond comprehension.

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Casualization.

The term precarious staff refers to any university worker who shares insecure working conditions (these could be teachers, tutors, researchers, cleaners, caterers, hospitality or admin staff) that leave them underpaid, vulnerable and living with the constant risk of unemployment. Casualization refers to the casual forms of employment which leave people in this insecure position. It can also refer to outsourcing. For example, in our College estates 20.5% of all cleaning staff are outsourced, and 14.28% of security staff. The University in total has employed over 2,500 staff on casualized, short-term and hourly-paid contracts, leaving them in a precarious condition. When the institution decides to no longer rely upon its casualized workers, it can dispose of them easily. Student learning conditions are staff working conditions, and we should stand in solidarity with our teachers.

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Student Levy

Many, especially postgraduates are struggling. In addition to the Students Levies and Charges (SLC), which includes the Sports Centre Development charge (€120), students pay increasingly large booking fees in order to use those same facilities.

“I play badminton with ~8 other SoP postgraduates every week or so, and we pay €10 per hour per court, with an additional €6 tacked on per hour per court if we bring non-members. And if we want to borrow a badminton racquet? Another €5 per booking, supposedly to dissuade equipment theft. These costs add up quickly and place financial strain on students,” says a student.

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It’s not just badminton. The rock climbing wall, the basketball and tennis courts, the classes—anything outside of the pool and weight-lifting facilities—students have to pay extra for it. As if students weren’t already poor enough, and as if we didn’t already contribute to 88% of Trinity Sports Centre (TSC) income.

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This is all while the Provost is paid € 800 a day, with the senior management team taking home €2.5 million in just one year in 2020-2021 during the pandemic. It is greedy, disrespectful and unacceptable.

APPEAL TO PROVOST: STOP FEE INCREASES, EXPLOITATIVE RENT AND RESPECT STUDENTS AND STAFF!

APPEAL TO ALL STUDENTS: SUPPORT PROTESTS, PUT PRESSURE ON THE HIERARCHY AND ORGANISE!

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S4C Statement on 2.3% Fee Increase – Boycott the Student Partnership Agreement now!

This is our “student partnership”. After the recent defeat of the same proposal through the work of TCDSU, GSU and S4C, they kept re-running the vote at Board until they knew opposition would die, or those who dissent would be absent, and their agenda would be pushed through. Disgraceful.

A non-EU international student in Dublin can already be expected to pay around 30,000 to 40,000 euros just for the tuition fee and rented accommodation. That is insane. To have the audacity to further increase this is beyond comprehension. No wonder many leave after they get their degrees.

We know students who are being evicted, who are struggling to pay for groceries, and who are at risk of not getting their degrees due to the tuition fee arrears. 

According to an FOI request we filed, the number of students in rent or fee arrears shot up to 250 or so during the pandemic. In the face of this, our College has decided to further push us into precarity. The government’s complicity cannot be understated either, as they transformed our universities into for-profit businesses through decades of underfunding.

As a response, we need to boycott the Student Partnership Agreement, which is nothing but a piece of paper that offers students no protections, but is a great PR booster for College. To this end, we have launched a petition.

We invite the TCDSU to boycott the SPA, not just because of the fees, but because due to the HEA Bill 2022, we will lose the Education Officer and Welfare Officer from the Board in the time of the aftershock of a pandemic. Decisions like this will meet even less opposition. As such, we need decisive action.

We also invite the TCDSU to reconsider their political strategy. They should have organised a pre-emptive protest if they knew the 2.3% fee increase was imminent. However, they didn’t tell the union members, S4C, the GSU (who were ill at the time), or the press. 

We need to revisit our political strategy because what we are doing isn’t working.

Sign the petition!

The fee increase is a 2.3% over a 4-year period, with a fee freeze in 2022-2023 but starting in 2023-2024.

Students Win Against 10% Fee Increase

Board of @trinitycollegedublin is discussing a 10% increase at the moment. We were not many at the protest today, but we will build until our numbers grow. Let’s unite with staff in opposition to the commercialization of academia and let’s protect our communities.

This fee increase will hurt the most vulnerable and presents a further barrier to accessing education. Students are being evicted because they can’t pay rent. Students are struggling to pay for groceries. Students are being left behind. The pandemic has only compounded this issue.  Rent hikes, the student contribution fee, and international fees, all of which have gradually but greatly increased over the past decades, have made it so that students and their families (who may have also suffered unemployment because of Covid-19) struggle to pay College-related expenses. Many take up part-time jobs or student loans, but even this is not enough. In our College, during the pandemic, more than 250 students were in rent or fees arrears.

We must organize in grassroots groups, political associations, trade unions. Corporatization must be resist. We cannot and will not yield.

Students4change COMMITTEE AFTER PROTEST, BEFORE HEARING NEWS THAT 9 board members dissented and the fee increase proposal was scrapped.

University Times article here.

Open Letter to Board of Trinity College Dublin

Dear Board of Trinity College Dublin, 

It has come as a shock to the entire College community that Provost Linda Doyle has broken the sanctity of an election time promise, showing a total lack of respect to students and staff alike.  Senior management is putting forward an annual 2.3% tuition fee increase for all cohorts starting 2023/24 for 4 years, affecting non-EU and postgraduates, and hurting students who already face the cost of commuting, unaffordability of accommodation and the rising cost of living. Please see here a video of the commitment to not increase fees during the provostial election hustings. This hike is coming to tomorrow’s Board meeting, of which you are all members and the foremost decision-makers of College.  Recommended by the Finance Committee, the personification of capital within our university, this decision is bound to be railroaded through. 

That is unless you, as an elected member of our community, publicly and loudly dissent. While democracy within our institution has been eroded over years of corporatization, burgeoning bureaucracy and the centralization of power within the hands of senior management, you can still use these formal structures to stand by the many students and staff who are affected by College’s incessant drive for profit. We ask that you resist.

We ask that you resist for all of us who are vulnerable and will be further thwarted from accessing education. Students are being evicted. Students are struggling to pay for groceries. Students are being left behind. The pandemic has only made the issue so much worse. Academica is growing increasingly elitist and inaccessible, only further disenfranchising a diverse student population.  Rent hikes, the student contribution fee, and international fees, all of which have gradually but greatly increased over the past decades, have made it so that students struggle to pay College-related expenses. Many take up part-time jobs or student loans, but even this is not enough.

In our College, during the pandemic, more than 250 students were in rent or fees arrears. An increase in fees of 2.3% annually for 4 years will only further cement the for-profit model of College and hurt the most vulnerable in our community, who are already under immense financial strain. A non-EU student doing a standard 4-year undergraduate degree will have to undergo a 10% fee increase during their stay at College.

College’s over-reliance on the fee-paying model highlights the immediate need for government investment. Delivery of free, public and accessible education should be a national priority. Locking people out of education creates a system where not everyone can participate. But firstly, let us face the fact that our university’s priorities do not lay with the wellbeing of our community.  Increasing fees affects us all, in one way or another, and hurts those among us who are most vulnerable.

Provost Linda Doyle, if you keep making it impossible for students to go to College, who will fill campus? There will only be fancy capital projects left, and nothing else.

Board of Trinity College Dublin, don’t let down your students, your staff and your community.

We, the students and staff of our institution, will not stand idly by as our lives are subjugated to the interests of capital. 

Best Regards,

László Molnárfi

Students 4 Change

Chairperson 

Picture1.pngis an alliance of Marxist and Anarchist students from Trinity College Dublin focused on the housing crisis in relation to student accommodation, Irish neutrality, SU reform and other matters of student politics. Go on our website students4change.eu, follow us on social media or email us at [email protected]!

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