NUIG students go to virtual polls today in referendum to reduce student levy

If referendum passes, the amount paid by students each year would be slashed from €224 to €140

NUIG SU president Pádraic Toomey.

NUIG SU president Pádraic Toomey.

NUI Galway students go to the virtual polls today to vote in a referendum to reduce the student levy. If passed, the amount paid by students each year would be slashed from €224 to €140.

The referendum has been called by the NUIG Students’ Union and seeks to remove the €100 charge students have been paying for the Sports Centre Building.

To date NUIG students have paid €20.8 million for this buildin. The new restructured levy will remove this €100 charge and bring in a new student levy of €140 to allow for funding for sports clubs, societies and the Student Health Unit.

According to SU vice-president, Emma Sweeney, if the referendum passes, the new levy will also provide increased funding of €2.3 million that will support university sports clubs, societies, the health unit, CÉIM Peer Learning, Flirt FM, and the Students’ Union.

There have been calls for all students to take part in the vote, and to vote Yes, from both the SU president Pádraic Toomey, and Sinn Féin Galway East representative, Louis O’Hara.

'The Government needs to make education accessible to everyone by progressively abolishing tuition fees over the next number of years'

“As a recent NUIG graduate, I am well aware of the high cost of third-level education and the financial pressure students are under,” said Mr O’Hara. “"€224 is a lot of money for students already paying extortionate rents and tuition fees. It is not covered by the SUSI grant meaning all students must pay regardless of their circumstances. This is wrong and a huge barrier to education in NUIG.”

“The time has come for change at NUI Galway,” said Mr Toomey. “Not even SUSI covers the student levy and it’s a massive barrier to education. Students have been paying for the Sports Centre Building for too long – this needs to stop.”

Mr O’Hara said the issue reflects a wider problem of third level education in the State, and he called on the Government to tackle a situation which sees Irish students paying the highest tuition fees in the EU.

“As well as enormous rents, for many students this is simply unaffordable and denying their right to an education,” he said. “The Government needs to make education accessible to everyone by progressively abolishing tuition fees over the next number of years. Education is a right, not a privilege, and should be affordable to all.”

Opposing voices

However, not all students are advocating, or supporting a Yes vote. The USCG Student Reps have raised coincerns that cutting the levy will have a direct impact on students themselves, and the sertvices they can avail of.

The Clubs and Societies have outlined how the proposals will impact them and their student members, saying it will result in a funding cut of €240,000 to the Student Project Fund, which has invested about €200,000 a year into clubs over the last five years; and a  funding cut of €230,000 for the running of Áras na Mac Léinn – from €281,000 down to €49,000.

NUI Galway 2

The elected student representatives to the University Societies Coordination Group (USCG ) said: “We welcome a reduced student levy. However, while the increase in direct society funding may seem like a positive, the proposed cuts to the Áras na Mac Léinn fund - 83 per cent; and Student Project Fund - 75 per cent, we are worrying as we believe it will do more harm than good for students.

“Áras na Mac Léinn is the home of Societies and students. It houses the Student Health Unit, the Alive office, Students’ Union offices and The Hub and The Kitchen which provide seating and cooking space for students. It also hosts the majority of Societies’ events. The funding cuts will force all these services to seek additional external funding to ensure the availability and maintenance of key resources/spaces for Societies and students.

“None of the impacted groups were consulted about the breakdown of the new levy and we are all worried about how this will affect student life. As of yet, the SU haven’t given a concrete plan/budget to accommodate for the losses of these funds, or what they plan to do with the 50% funding they are planning to allocate to the SU."

More information about the referendum and elections is available at


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