Fianna Fáil Education Spokesperson Thomas Byrne TD has called on Minister Richard Bruton to wake up to the emerging practice of universities introducing unsanctioned fee hikes through the back door and to take action.

He was speaking following the emergence of information that second year pharmacy students in Trinity College Dublin, UCC and RCSI will now be charged master’s degree level fees for their final year, and will also lose payment for work placements.

The additional cost to each student is estimated at €25,000.

Deputy Byrne commented, “The scale of punitive and unauthorised costs to those currently studying pharmacy is shocking and entirely unacceptable. If this move by the universities goes unchecked, a pharmacy degree will be put beyond the reach of all but the wealthiest young people in the country.

“It also raises a larger issue, which is the extent to which universities can introduce fees such as this through the back door and without any forewarning or consultation.

“It is evident that there is an emerging trend of universities charging extortionate fees for final year of professional degrees.

“Right now it isn’t clear whether the Minister was consulted about this ruse before its introduction. I put it to Minister Richard Bruton that he needs to wake up to this practice and take action to deal with it. I have asked him to engage with the Presidents of these institutions to seek the reversal of these decisions, and will continue to press him on the issue until we have some clarity on how this has been allowed to happen and what he is doing to deal with it.”