Number of students receiving grants up almost 19,000 since 2013

The number of third-level students that have received financial grants over the past five years has risen by 18,778 in Ireland.

According to figures provided by Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI), the number of students that have received financial grants rose from 60,022 in the academic year 2013-2014 to 78,778 in the academic year 2016-2017. That is an increase of 31%.

In the academic year 2013-2014, the number of third-level students that were awarded grants was 73,326, that number drastically increased by over 5,000 to 79,861 students in the year 2014-2015.

For many, the student grant scheme is the only possible way for them to attend university, with student contribution fees currently set at €3,000 per year, more than trebling since 2008.

In 2002, the registration fee rose by 70%, from €396 to €670. This was followed by a further increase to €750 in 2003. Fees gradually built up over the following six years, and jumped from €900 to €1,500 in 2009, and then again to €2,000 in 2010, and are now at the current contribution of €3,000 in 2015.

On top of this €3,000 a year, there are travel costs, accommodation, living costs and books which can add up to a hefty amount for students.

In recent reports by the European Commission, it was found that Irish third-level students pay the second highest fees in Europe, after England, where students pay up to £10,000 a year for tuition.

The idea of a student loans scheme has been put forward in the past, but Taoiseach Leo Varadkar quickly ruled it out.

This proposal of a student loan scheme resulted in thousands of students protesting last year in October, calling for more public investment in third-level education in Ireland.

The Union of Students in Ireland are against this loan scheme, which they said will result in a radical increase in student fees from €3,000 up to €5,000 and could leave students graduating with a debt of at least €20,000.

By Aimee Walsh

 

UCD students react to high repeat fees

It’s exam time in most colleges, and in UCD the thoughts of repeat exams may cause students a slight panic. This is because UCD have the highest repeat fees in the country.

The City reporter, Ronan Smyth, investigated repeat fees in colleges earlier this year. Check out his report here.

We headed out to UCD to see some the reaction of students there.

You can follow Ronan and Rachael on Twitter @RowSmyth and @rachieobrien

 

By Ronan Smyth and Rachael O’ Brien

Highest STI rates found in young adults

Pamphlets from DIT medical centre. Photo by Rachael Hussey
Pamphlets from DIT medical centre. Photo by Rachael Hussey

Ireland has experienced huge changes in society over the last thirty years. While traditionally Ireland was a predominantly catholic and conservative country, attitudes and behaviours around sex are changing and with a more liberal contemporary Irish population emerging, our sex lives have transformed along with this.

The National Medicines Information Centre says, “A recent Irish study found that there was a lack of awareness amongst young people (17-34 years) of symptoms suggestive of STIs, and that there were significant levels of high risk behaviour.”

In 2006 the Crisis Pregnancy Agency and the Department of Health and Children published research on The Irish Study of Sexual Health and Relationships by UCD.  This study analysed the behaviours and attitudes of a group of Irish people in relation to sex, sexuality, contraception and sexually transmitted infections.

Statistics on STI rates Ireland

The Irish Study of Sexual Health and Relationships by UCD say “There is a great deal of evidence from research that sexual culture in Ireland is undergoing immense change and moving closer to that of the UK and continental Europe.” With these changes, awareness and education surrounding the dangers and challenges faced with unprotected sex needs to be addressed in a more vigorous way, particularly for young adults.

The study revealed that younger people’s attitudes are now more liberal “Between 1973 and 2005, the proportion of Irish people agreeing that sex before marriage is ‘always wrong’ fell from 71% to 6%. Attitudes among younger Irish people have become more liberal at a faster pace than those of older Irish people.” The change in attitudes has impacted on average number of sexual partners for Irish people, which contributes to the higher levels of STIs in young adults. “Although 29% of men overall have had a single partner over lifetime, this proportion increases across age cohorts: 46% of men aged 55-64 reported a single partner compared to 23% of those aged 18 to 24.”


While the rates of partners have increased the risk of contracting a sexually transmitted infection increases with that. Ireland’s change in attitudes and behaviours surrounding sexual activities may not reflect their knowledge and practise.  DIT students Louise Casey, 22 years old and Zoe Kinsella, 20 years old, both reveal they first received sex education in fourth year of secondary school but fail to remember any significant information given on STIs. “Just a few scary pictures, that was it” said Zoe Kinsella.  Louise Casey remembers an ‘ice-breaker’ with a condom and a banana but admits she “was still a bit foggy on the STI details”.

The first year students feel female contraception methods such as the contraceptive pill impact on the use of condoms. “I think lads definitely rely on the girl to be on the pill and they look at it like it is so handy” says Louise Casey.  “I feel like if you are in a relationship and both of you have been checked then you are free to have sex without a condom if you are on the pill but besides that, if you are having sex with random people and you are like ‘well I am not going to get pregnant so that’s fine’ but you can still catch loads of STIs because if that is your attitude, how many other people have that attitude?” says Zoe Kinsella.

The girls see alcohol as a huge factor for unprotected sex rates. Casey says, “When you are drunk nothing matters. You are so much more impulsive, if you want to do it you are going to do it, there is nothing stopping you.”

Chlamydia being the most prevalent STI in Ireland, reveals the highest rates in young adults. According to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre in regards to the 2013 annual report, rates of chlamydia in 2013 were 6,262 with the highest age specific rate in 20-24 year olds. The rate in females (1,060 per 100,000) was almost 1.5 times greater than in males in this age group (687 per 100,000).

HSPC STI 2013 annual report

Femi Bankole, DIT’s student union welfare officer believes that education is key and thinks it is down to maturity as teenagers leaving secondary school and entering college start experiencing a lot of new things and experiences while education helps navigate young people towards safe sex. Bankole ran a sexual health campaign within the first six weeks of the first semester to ensure new students receive the most knowledge as early as possible.

“Drink and drugs are a huge factor,” says Bankole. On a positive note Bankole sees a rise in the rates of young people who are choosing to get checked out after unprotected sex and an increase in students desire to learn and educate themselves on STIs.

According to The Irish Study of Sexual Health and Relationships by UCD, the most common reasons for non-use among respondents aged 18 to 24 are: drinking alcohol/taking drugs (20%), no contraception available (18%), sex not planned (16%) and not thinking to use contraception (15%). A further 18% of those aged 18 to 24 report ‘no contraception available’, 16% that sex was ‘not planned’ and 15% that they ‘didn’t think to use’. The results suggest that, for the 18-24 group at least, unpreparedness and situational factors such as alcohol and drugs are the major reasons for failing to use contraception.

Overall STI annual rates in Ireland have increased from 2,228 in 1989 to 12,753 in 2013. Alcohol and drugs, access to contraception and freedom are all factors when it comes to the rates of STIs amongst the under 25s. While Femi Bankole, welfare officer in DIT, sees a rise in student’s awareness and education around safe sex, there is still a long way to go in regards safe sex education in the early years, provided in an accessible way. As Zoe Kinsella states, “The most information I have ever received was from the back door of the girls toilets in DIT where they say 80% of women with chlamydia do not know they have it.”

Info on sexual health and contraception

By Rachael Hussey

 

Student activists demonstrate solidarity with Palestine

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Photo by Ciarán O’Rourke, Trinity College Apartheid Free Campus Campaign.

The conflict between Israel and Palestine was brought to the forefront of public consciousness again last summer when Israel launched an offensive on the 8th of July. Increased rocket fire into Israeli territory by Hamas sparked the reaction, which in turn was due to a crackdown on Hamas by Israel, after the disappearances and deaths of three Israeli teenagers.

The scenes of destruction and high civilian casualty rates saw strong reactions worldwide. For founders of the Trinity College Apartheid Free Campus Campaign, this has meant highlighting and protesting what they see as a compliance of Irish academic institutions in the academic oppression of Palestinians. Ciarán O’Rourke, a founder of the movement adds that the issue goes beyond the subject of the occupation itself, saying, ‘The point is to get as large a number and as wide a cross-section of staff and students on-board as possible – whether it is through the petition, through events like the poetry reading, or on social media. The whole idea is to make some noise and speak our minds about the standards that Irish universities should respect and adhere to, so the more people involved, the more people adding their voices to the campaign, the better.’

The group object in particular to associations between Trinity College and Elbit Systems, The Israeli Security and Counter Terrorism Academy, as well as between the college and the Weizmann Institute of Science. An online petition to the Board of TCD has 450 of the intended 500 signatures and before Christmas the Graduate Student’s Union passed a majority vote supporting the campaign.

In response to my question about whether the group has connected with other university opposition groups, O’Rourke says that ‘Lots of groups have been in touch, and have been stating their support for the TCD Campaign, which is great. The TCD Campaign is distinct from other similar campaigns, however, in not calling for boycott, divestment, and sanctions of Israel per se. We’ve kept this in mind when thinking about direct collaboration with pro-Palestinian groups elsewhere in Ireland, whose work we admire and in many ways follow from.

The ‘Apartheid-Free’ theme, though, is precise in advocating for a condemnation of apartheid crimes, and for a severance of research ties with institutions that contribute to their continuance. Under the terms of the TCD Campaign, Trinity could still collaborate with an institution in Israel such as the human rights organisation B’Tselem without breaking its standards of ‘apartheid-free’ research.’
TCD Apartheid Free Campus campaign is organising a Poetry for Peace reading on March 12th and on Tuesday March 10th, in a non-related event, TCD academic Elaine Bradley will give an eyewitness account of the eight months she spent in Gaza and the West Bank at 7pm in Cassidy’s Hotel on Parnell Square.

By Sinéad Fitzgerald

Hotels and Digs: The new student life

travellodge
Photo: Jennifer McDonald

Soaring rent prices and a lack of accommodation in Dublin is forcing third level students to choose to study outside of the capital or in many cases, commute.

Finding accommodation, and the money to finance it, is a huge struggle for students and one student who knows this more than most is 22 year old, Cian.

Cian is a third level engineering student in DIT who said he was forced to live in hotels and travelodges for a whole college year due to the rocketing prices and lack of rented accommodation. “Yeah there were a few of us living rough if you like, it was a tough time”, says the 22 year old.

“We had a house, it was a two bed, among four of us, on Sherad Street, but is was so unsafe that we just couldn’t stay. The house was infested with rats and there was a huge hole in the roof, the floor boards hadn’t been laid properly and the house was so damp, it was just horrendous”, says the DIT student.

After moving out of this house, Cian said that he and six of his friends were practically homeless. “We grabbed couches where we could, our friends were great but we couldn’t stay anywhere permanent, some nights we were staying on couches of people we barely even knew”, he explains.

Cian says that him and six of his friends moved from hotel to hotel each week. “We couldn’t let on that there were six of us in the room so one of us would check in and pay and then the rest of us would pay that person our share”, he says.

Cian and six friends had to share one hotel room for most of the college year
Cian and six friends had to share one hotel room for most of the college year

Renting a room in the capital, if you are lucky enough to find one, can cost anywhere from €400 to €600 a month, according to adverts on Daft.ie, Myhome.ie and various other accommodation advertising sites.

“We did save a lot of money living in hotels, but it was a horrible and stressful time”, says the engineering student. “We are from Leitrim so commuting just wasn’t an option and the hotels cost about €160 a week, so among the six of us that wasn’t too bad”.

bnb
B&Bs are becoming the only option for students in the Capital

The hotel life was far from luxurious for the students Cian explains, “We were all on top of each other, we had no privacy and then there’s the problem of not being able to make any food, bar a dodgy cup of tea”.

“We spent about €50 a week on eating out and to be honest it was all crap cheap food, like Burger King and McDonalds”, he says.

Living in digs is becoming more and more popular now as students will take anything they can get.  Laura is a 25 year old student who shares her experiences of living in digs.

“I got a room in a house and lived with the homeowner, a woman, and her young daughter”, she says. “The room was lovely and the rent wasn’t too bad so I was happy enough, but there was a lot of rules, which, as an independent adult, was slightly annoying”.

Laura explains how she wasn’t even allowed her boyfriend over, “he wasn’t allowed to step a foot inside the house, the woman was concerned that her daughter would be getting a bad example. One day he carried in my bags for me and I got a bit of a warning”, laughs the 25 year old.

“The house was lovely, reasonably priced and I was close to my placement so I put up with the rules”, she says.

The Higher Education Authority has admitted that this is the first year it has seen students being forced to put off college because they cannot find adequate accommodation.

With thousands of students opting to study in Dublin every year the problem is a growing one, which needs “short-term solutions not long-term aspirations” according to the Fianna Fáil leader, Michael Martin.

 

The life of a commuter

Amy Grehan
A commuter waits patiently for the next bus

According to figures released by the Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) this summer, a student living away from home can expect to spend at least €10,980 per year, while living at home is nearly €4,000 cheaper.

The Higher Education Authority (HEA) has said around 18 per cent of students are in “serious financial difficulty” and with the rising costs of housing and lack of student accommodation in Dublin many students now have no choice but to commute.

President of the Union of Students in Ireland, Laura Harmon, has said; “There is already growing evidence of students commuting daily to Dublin over extremely long distances. Some opt to spend multiple nights sleeping on couches or in hostels every week, others aren’t even able to attain that.”

Amy Grehan
A busy commuter spot in Dublin

31% of students in Ireland still live with their parents, according to the latest data from the HEA’s Eurostudent survey.

I am one of the 31%. I live at home, get up at 6am each morning and travel on a stuffy, overcrowded bus for two hours (on a good day) from Westmeath to Dublin and two hours home again. I hate it, I am constantly tired, I miss out on the whole college social life, and my parents still have to know where I am at all times. However, by the end of the week I am not broke, the simple fact is I can afford to commute but I can’t afford to live in Dublin.

My weekly commuter ticket amounts to €60 and give or take €20 a week on food and other necessities. That’s €80 a week or €320 a month, where as if I lived in Dublin I would be forking out at least €400 a month on accommodation alone and let’s not forget bills, a weekly food shop and transport costs on top of that. So for now I will suck it up and get on with it and as the guy beside me on the bus falls asleep on my shoulder I try to remind myself that it could be worse, I could have a huge student loan hanging over my head.

Amy Grehan
CityLink bus service

I am not the only one in this situation; Ellen, 20, from Offaly says “I chose to commute because it was too expensive to live up in Dublin and I couldn’t afford it. I spend 3 hours commuting each day. I mostly use the train but it is quite expensive, however it is still cheaper than paying rent. I dislike the early mornings and always having to plan ahead, like what time to leave and rushing for the bus or train home. I sometimes feel I can’t relax in college or call home for a coffee in the middle of the day like many of my friends do.”

Cathal, 21, from Westmeath says “finding a house this year was either too expensive or too far away from my college to not be worth my time moving up, so I commute to Dublin from Westmeath, I’d say it takes me about 3 and half hours a day, 5 days a week. The bus company I travel with sell multi journey tickets and they are most definitely cheaper than rent! I suppose I can’t really complain much, as this year has been much cheaper for me.

The only real negatives I have found about commuting to Dublin is having to get up early in the mornings and also the loss of your time is also rather annoying. I find that by the time I get home I only have a few hours to get college work done, have dinner and time to myself before I have to go to bed to get a decent night’s sleep. Although I do miss getting a lie in in the mornings, having to commute has made my attendance in college improve significantly. Rather than deciding to maybe skip that one class in the morning I’m pushing myself to get to class, because my mam would go mad if I stayed at home in bed.”

Amy Grehan
Bus Eireann bus stop in South Dublin

David, from Newtownmountkennedy Co. Wicklow, says “I’m far enough away from Dublin that it’s a pain to commute but at the same time I’m close enough for it to not be worth the money I’d have to pay on rent. I spend 2 hours in total commuting each day so it’s not bad really, 1 hour each way. I always get the bus. It’s only €7.40 for a return ticket so I save a fair bit commuting versus what I’d pay on rent. The only downside is how I’m forced to sleep on someone elses house if I decide to stay up in Dublin for a night out.”

Conor, from Kildare, actually likes his daily commute; ”I commute because I’m close to Dublin and would rather save than pay rent. This is the first year where I am earning enough at my job to pay rent, but would rather put it towards my savings. I spend a total of 2 hours 15 minutes commuting every day. I’m saving about €60 a week compared to paying average rent. I like commuting because it gives me time to read – something I don’t get to always do due to work constraints. I also enjoy the pleasure of travelling, there’s a certain level of solitude I enjoy, provided someone sitting next to me doesn’t start yapping! I only dislike the time constraints of a timetable, and that I have to prepare for my day without knowing the outlook, that’s why I always end up wearing a rain coat on a sunny day!”

Jane Cregan of Iarnród Éireann says “We have seen a large growth in a student numbers this year, particularly on Intercity Services. This could be due to some students commuting longer distances due to shortage of accommodation and also our great value fares for students.”

 

 

Photos: Amy Grehan