Galway TDs have called for NUI Galway (NUIG) to review its €295 repeat exam fee, in light of the complications that the coronavirus caused for students sitting exams this year.
The university has come under fire from NUI Galway Students’ Union (NUIGSU) over the exam fee, which NUIGSU said should be waived this year.
NUIGSU President Pádraic Toomey told the Irish Examiner last week: “The students who are sitting these repeat exams aren’t the ones with great broadband, they had to do an exam in awful situations, they might not have had study space or a strong internet connection. And now they have to come up with almost €300 to do a repeat.”
Six out of Galway’s eight TDs told The University Times that the exam fee should be reviewed.
Minister of State for Disability Anne Rabbitte said in an email statement to The University Times: “I don’t think it’s fair for students to be subjected to a repeat fee of €295, which is particularly steep. From what I can see, there’s much less administration taking place to hold the exams with students likely resitting their exams from home due to Covid restrictions so it’s hard to fathom how this fee has been calculated.”
“This, on top of the fact that many students have struggled to secure paid work so their incomes are lower than they normally would be and €295 is hard to come by. I hope university management reconsider their position, which in turn would ease the pressure students are already under.”
Hildegarde Naughton, a minister of state at the Department of Transport, said in an email statement to The University Times that she supported NUIGSU in its call for the fee to be reviewed, adding that she had “written to the Minister for Education in that regard”.
At present, students have to pay €295 to repeat exams, regardless of how many exams they fail. A number of universities in Ireland charge students different rates depending on how many exams they have to repeat.
Fianna Fáil TD Eamon Ó Cuiv described the fee as “unfair” in an email statement to The University Times, adding that he was “supporting the students on this issue”.
In an email statement to The University Times Sheila Gorham, an administration assistant in the NUIG Marketing and Communications Office, said: “There is no fee for deferrals, and the repeat exam fee, which is unchanged from last year, supports all costs associated with repeats, from the setting and correcting of assignments in a more challenging context this year, to the hosting of exams online and the awarding of results.”
“By supporting the cost of repeat exams in this way, this cost is not cross-subsidised by other students or drawing on other resources that the University devotes to and for our students.”
She also said that students “in the most need of financial support” can apply to the university to waive the repeat exam fees.
Furthermore, the university has extended the financial aid fund to support students, as well as offering early refunds of rent to students who left accommodation due to the coronavirus, “by being more lenient with regard to programme deferral and by applying a more flexible policy of refunding deposits for our programmes”.
Independent TD Catherine Connolly told The University Times in an email that NUIG “should urgently review the fee set for repeating exams given the nature of the repeat exams on line and the very difficult year that students have had”.
Speaking to The University Times about the fee, Independent TD Seán Canney said that it could “only be expected there would be some charge”, but that “maybe the rate of charge is questionable”.
Sinn Féin TD Mairéad Farrell said in an email statement to The University Times: I certainly support the SU, and I think it’s incredibly unfair to charge students this fee after the massive disruption to teaching this year. This is no doubt a further cause for stress for students at an already stressful time, and the University should be waiving this this.”
Noel Grealish, another Galway TD, said in an email to The University Times that he had “contacted the President of NUIG on this matter, asking that a resolution be found and I am waiting to hear from him”.
Gorham added that “as always, we wish our students the very best of luck in their exams and look forward to welcoming them back for their continuing studies or for graduation in the autumn”.
Galway TD Ciarán Cannon did not respond to requests for comment.