Thousands of WIT students took to the city’s streets on Wednesday to demonstrate their anger at Education Minister Batt O’Keeffe’s proposals to reintroduce third level tuition fees.

Abandoning their classes, the students marched from the Institute’s Cork Road campus into the city centre en masse, where they staged a protest to voice their opposition to the return of fees.

This protest, organised by the Students’ Union, is the latest in a series of nationwide campaigns which are sending a clear message to Minister O’Keeffe – that students will not stand for any re-introduction of third level fees. Speaking to the assembled crowd, WIT Students’ Union President Cathy Pembroke noted that fees were already a fact of life for students. “The registration fee, £120 when this government took office, has now ballooned to €1,500. On a weekly basis, we in the Students’ Union are faced with the reality of students having to drop out of college for financial reasons.”

“Education is a right, not a commodity to be purchased only by those who can afford it. We owe it to the next generation of young people to give them the best possible start in life and in this era that means access to third level education”, she added.

Fees disaster

USI President Shane Kelly said this was a time for getting more people into college, not less. “Not only would the return of fees be a disaster for students and their families, but it would put at risk the very idea of our knowledge based economy by placing a barrier in front of those wishing to further their education.

‘‘It would be a very short sighted approach to the long term problem of funding in our education system. This march demonstrates to the government that students will not be made scapegoats for a decade of under investment in higher education.”

Ms Pembroke has vowed to continue the fight against fees for as long as is necessary, noting that after the march in Waterford there would be a National March on the Dáil in Dublin on February 4th.