take back trinity

'We are not cash cows': Hundreds of Trinity students rally through the campus over resit exam fees

A group of up to 40 students had been occupying the college’s dining hall over the past few days. / YouTube

Updated at 3pm

STUDENTS HAVE ENDED their occupation of the dining hall at Trinity College Dublin – but have vowed to keep protesting until their demands are met, as hundreds attend a rally in the Front Square.

The students want the college to row back on its plans to bring in a €450 exam resit fee.

The Take Back Trinity campaign has been undertaking direct action on campus in response to the mooted introduction of resit fees, including blocking entrances to the college and occupying buildings. On Friday 9 March, the students blockaded the college’s Front Arch and shut down the Book of Kells for two hours in protest against the decision.

A group of up to 40 students has been occupying the college’s dining hall since 10am on Tuesday.

That occupation ended at 12.30pm today.

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A rally began on campus at 1pm in Front Square, Trinity. It included several speakers, including Richard Boyd Barrett of People Before Profit, Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union, and members of the Union of Students in Ireland.

Student musicians followed the speeches with a music set.

The Take Back Trinity campaign said today:

The rally marks the end of the student occupation of the Dining Hall, with students vacating the Dining Hall just before the rally. The current occupation comes to an end after escalated action from the College yesterday evening which left students inside the building without access to bathroom facilities and no food or water allowed in.

Speaking to, international student Gus Culbertson said: “I’m here as an international student, my fees have risen twice in the last three years. I’m here in solidarity with those who cannot pay a supplemental fee, that can’t pay the increases in accommodation fees. I’m here for the post-graduates, the international students, I’m here for all students to make sure they can afford accommodation.”

“I am tired, I am angry, my voice is wrecked,” Culbertson said, as he addressed the crowd earlier in the rally.

“We are showing this college, our college, that we are no longer complacent in their money grabbing ways. We are not cash cows. We are students, staff, people who are trying to further our education.”

University response 

Trinity College Dublin had denied the claims that students were locked in. In a statement yesterday, the college said:

The students are not locked into the Dining Hall.  They can leave at any time they want, and the College is taking all steps to ensure that the students inside are safe.  However, we are not letting anyone else into the building, as there were concerns that large numbers of non-students had been invited into the building through an open call, and this would result in unacceptable risks for all concerned.

Some movement in the situation came last night when Provost Patrick Prendergast – who it is understood is abroad – tweeted:

Agreed with @tcdsu & @trinityGSU that​ we will seriously consider alternative proposals on supplemental exam fees, modular billing & PG/Non-EU fees at the next Board meeting, and that Trinity is a university that belongs to all of us who study and work here #TakeBackTrinity.

This has been recognised as “a step forward” by the campaign.

“However, we plan to continue our direct actions until our three demands have been met. We will continue to escalate our protests until our demands are met,” said the protestors.

[image alt="B" src="" width="296" height="222" credit-source="Hayley%20Halpin" credit-via="" caption="Students%20turned%20out%20in%20their%20hundreds%20to%20the%20rally%20today" class="alignnone" /end]

This afternoon, Trinity College Dublin said it welcomed the decision by the Students’ Union to “wind down protests and the occupancy of buildings”.

It said that the university’s management has “undertaken to consider alternative proposals on supplemental exam fees, modular billing and postgraduate/non-EU fees at the next board meeting”.

“There has been good dialogue over the past few days and we now have an agreement between students and university management. This will see the protests winding down. The university is now looking forward to renewing student partnership in the coming days and weeks,” Vice-Provost Chris Morash said today.

Proposed exam fees 

On 23 January, Trinity College proposed supplemental (repeat) exam fees of €200 per exam with a cap of €1000 to Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union.

The union then proposed the motion to the Student Council, and the decision was moved to a preferendum. Out of a valid poll of 3,504 students, 82% voted strongly against the implementation of supplemental fees.

However, the college board decided to implement supplemental fees at a flat rate of €450. The Take Back Trinity campaign was formed in response to this decision.

The students’ demands include:

  • “Supplemental exam fees be scrapped with a written and minuted declaration produced promising that supplemental exam fees shall never be introduced or reintroduced in future.”
  • “Affordable rental options for the full academic year to be introduced and offered for all students. Rent increases for any and all student accommodation provided by Trinity will be rejected and condemned.”
  • “No more increases to any student fees, in any form. We condemn and reject recent fee hikes for postgraduate and international students. We demand that these fees are no longer to be discussed or amended in an annual review.”

With reporting by Hayley Halpin

Read: Trinity provost says university will ‘seriously consider’ alternatives to resit exam fees after student protest>

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