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Overwhelming majority of current class elect to withhold fees in protest

Graduate Entry Medicine (GEM) students are calling on UCD to reverse its practice of increasing course fees every year. These fee increases were approved without consultation from students, putting them under additional financial stress. Current fees are €16,290 for Irish students, and €55,140 for non-EU students, which represent an increase of €1,000 and €3,000, respectively, since 2017.

Conor Anderson, President of UCD Students’ Union said:

“I have been working with this group of students since the middle of July. The increases have been described as ‘annual inflationary increases,’ yet students have not seen any benefit from the extra money being spent. In fact, class sizes have increased since 2018, which means already-limited services are under even more pressure. The majority of GEM students are using loans to pay for fees and living expenses, but as of this year, fees have outstripped the available loans.

Because of the increasing debt-burden on current students, many worry that they will be forced to emigrate in order to earn the money necessary to pay all of it off. Ireland already suffers from a shortage of junior doctors available to work, and the rampant increase in debt is only exacerbating that shortage. The spiraling cost of a medical education also creates an insurmountable barrier for average students to pursue a career in medicine. The GEM course is designed as a second chance to those who did not study medicine straight out of secondary school, or for those who want to change careers and move into the medical field, but if this trend continues, only those from affluent backgrounds will be able to attend, which all current GEM students feel is wrong. A medical career should not be available only to those with money in the bank.

The pressure felt by students to pay the fees this year has been further exacerbated by COVID-19, with many students’ seasonal work being cut as a result of the pandemic. When previously asked by students if the fees could be frozen/reduced, students were told by University staff that they have time to “budget” for these increased expenses, and therefore the fees would not be reduced. The students have found these excuses provided by the staff unacceptable, and therefore have decided to take action.”