By John Patrick Kierans
DIT are planning to introduce a student levy of up to €150 to pay for a number of student services in Grangegorman.
The long awaited campus, which is not expected to be fully complete until 2022, will see students pay the added fee in order to use facilities such as the planned new sports hall.
Other student areas the institute is planning to build include a bar, along with a bigger clubs and socs space.
Paul Horan, Head of Campus Planning for Grangegorman, told the Edition: “We’ve been discussing a levy with the student bodies and the student’s union for a while.
“We haven’t been able to say for certain what spaces we will be getting, because the student accommodation has been a long while in gestation so we don’t want to go out to the student body for definite until we can say here’s the proposal. It’s going to take another year to get to that point,” he added.
“We hope the levy will include social and recreational space, which would be on the ground floor of the student accommodation and a new build in the first phase of a new sports hall. The typical levies are between €100 and €150. So instead of paying €3,000, you’d pay €3,149 for example, when you register and pay your fees,” Horan went on to say.
The levy is being introduced because the Irish Government won’t fund sports recreational spaces that colleges build.
The Government only pay for educational spaces that will benefit students.
Mr Horan continued: “Basically for the medium term, in order to develop sports recreation space, the national policy is that the Government doesn’t pay for that. “They pay for educational spaces to do with the delivery of teaching but sports and recreational facilities aren’t paid for”, he added.
“So in all the other institutions the big sports and recreation spaces have all been developed over the years by student levies. We’re hoping to introduce a similar process,” Horan went on to say.
“One of the biggest projects we’re working on is trying to deliver student accommodation on campus. We have the potential to deliver up to 2,000 beds, so we’re looking at approximately half of that to go out in a similar way to the private sector, asking the private sector to come in and design, build, operate and maintain them for a lengthy period,” Horan added.
“But in return we would get back the ground floor for free if you like. Financially, given the values, we reckon we can get most of it back as an empty box or shell. So to fit those out we’ll need a considerable fund of money,” he added.
“We also want to develop an indoor sports. So that will provide space for a good permanent home for things like a student bar, clubs and socs space, DITSU space and some sporting functions,” Horan added.
“The way it varies compared to other colleges such as UCD, they’re on their third tranche of their 10 to 15 year levy, in which they build their first phase of sports, they did another levy for their student centre, they’ve introduced another levy where they built their swimming pool,” Horan went on to say.
DITSU President Boni Odoemene believes that if a levy is introduced, students should have their own say on what the money is spent on.
He told the Edition: “In regards to a proposed student levy for student facilities on Grangegorman, this is something that DITSU have been negotiating on behalf of the students of DIT for a number of years now.
“The plans we are aware of is for a student levy to be introduced that would pay for the building and operations of a brand new student center.
“Your Student Council passed a policy in 2016 laying out the terms and conditions of levy negotiations. For only when completed may a proposal for a levy be brought forward to Council for approval.
“A number of these conditions have been completed, however there are still conditions that are a cause for contention.”
He continued: “Most notably is the condition around the governance of the levy monies. This condition calls for ‘all monies received by DIT be placed under the management of an agreed legal entity, the board of management of which will contain a majority of students appointed in a manner to be agreed between DIT and DITSU.’
“We believe that as this is student money being spent, students must have a majority say as to how it ought to be spent and where it’s being spent, and unfortunately the institute see things differently. This is only one example of where there is disagreement between DITSU and DIT in relation to the proposed introduction of a student levy.
“This year we have set up a Student Levy Working group that has been tasked in ironing out the technicalities and disagreements around the negotiations for a proposed student levy.
“I am hopeful that this will allow us to take some positive steps forward.”
A spokeswoman for DIT reiterated that the Department of Education do not provide funding for sports and student centres.
She said: “To fund these important facilities, students in all Irish Universities have so far contributed through what is known as a student levy. For example, over the last five years Dundalk IT; Maynooth University; University of Limerick; and Dublin City University have passed referendums on student levies in order to develop new student facilities on their campuses.
“The UCD Student Centre and the UCC Sports Facilities have been funded by student levies, while the UL Student Centre is currently at planning stage following a recent referendum.”
But in order to introduce a levy, students will have to vote in a referendum.
“A decision to introduce a levy in order to provide excellent student facilities for future generations of DIT students would require a democratic decision of the student body, backed by students voting in a referendum.
“DIT has developed a levy proposal with the objective of generating a fund of €20 million. This would secure the development of a top class student centre and indoor sports facilities (such as SU Offices, Student Media Centre, Black Box Theatre; Multi-Purpose Venue, Campus Bar and Sports Facilities: Sports Hall, Gym, Fitness studios, Strength and Conditioning suites, changing facilities, and Climbing Wall). “There has been no formal agreement as yet with student representatives around the introduction of a levy in DIT but discussions are on-going.”