The Union of Students in Ireland is calling on Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn to ‘do the decent thing’, after a challenge to grant cutbacks by two Galway students was rejected by the High Court this week.
USI President Gary Redmond condemned the decision, saying that students across the country are disappointed at what it will mean for “thousands of hard pressed families across the country who are struggling to keep people in college”.
“It was a disgrace that the previous Government would target the most vulnerable students for cutbacks on this scale and a further indictment of the current Minister for Education and Skills Ruairi Quinn that he reneged on the Labour Party’s promise to reverse the cut once in Government.”
A third year female student at NUI Galway and a second year female mature student at GMIT were joined by a male student at Dundalk IT in the court challenge against measures introduced in Budget 2011 to change the student grant scheme.
As a result of the changes, the students had seen their annual grants cut by €3,900, €2,440 and €3,700 respectively and called for a judicial review on the grounds that the measure breached Section 6 of the Student Support Act 2011 and while accepting that the amount of student grant may rise or fall year-on-year, the students had a legitimate expectation that they would continued to receive the higher (non-adjacent) rate of the grant.
However, Mr Justice John Hedigan yesterday rejected their claims, saying that the considerations of the public interest outweighed their entitlements. He went also dismissed claims the changes breached sections of the Student Support Act 2011 or that the Minister acted in an unfair and unjust manner.
Minister Quinn welcomed the ruling yesterday, stating that “given the complexity of the case”, he would consider the judgement further with his legal team.
However, Mr Redmond hit back by saying that the students had made “enormous personal sacrifices” to cope with the cost of education.
“These students have made enormous personal sacrifices to cope with the costs of education. Many thousands of these families were closely following this case, struggling on and taking on debt in the hope that the case would be successful and their grants would be restored.
“USI again calls on the Minister to do the decent thing follow through on the pledge he made as Labour Party Education Spokesperson prior to the last election and reverse these cuts for students who were already in courses and allow them a fighting chance to complete their education and gain a qualification. USI must now take some time, consult with our members and our legal team before we decide how to proceed.”