Academic Affairs Motions 2024

2024 AA      CN     1         Motion on Proctorio


Comhdháil notes:

Proctorio is an example of online proctoring software. The primary function of software like this is to police academic performance by monitoring academic integrity during online examinations.

Comhdháil also notes:

This technology has raised considerable concerns amongst the third-level education community worldwide, and that across the world, students, staff and institutions have decided against Proctorio due to how problematic it is, like the University of California, Berkeley.

Comhdháil is concerned:

There are serious concerns about welfare, privacy, accessibility and bias that may result from the Proctorio-required recordings, including recordings of a student’s home environment, image, audio, and computer screen while they are taking the exam. Discriminating factors with software like Proctorio include economical, gender, culture, race and disability status.

Comhdháil  notes with great concern:

It is biased against certain skin colours. It has been reported that it struggles to recognize people of colour.

The scanning of a student’s room and the collecting of information about a student’s home environment as a breach of privacy. Students become vulnerable by showing their homes to unconscious or conscious bias and future discrimination, bullying or even harassment. An examiner viewing a student’s personal living space and living condition, decorations/posters, and potential iconography is unacceptable.

The detection system for flagging alleged academic dishonesty is unreliable and discriminates against living conditions. For example, if a student lives in a shared arrangement, and there are multiple people in the room, or noises are heard due to overcrowded apartments, this will trigger the system.

Acquiring the right infrastructure, including affording a private room, a computer, web-camera and microphone and stable internet at home is stressful and expensive for audio and visual proctoring.

Students with caring duties might find it difficult to find someone to take care of their children while they are sitting an exam or making clear that they are under no circumstance be disturbed which induces anxiety.

Being monitored in this way places extraordinary stress on students, at a time when young people’s mental health is in crisis worldwide, and this may affect academic performance as well as general welfare.

Comhdháil regregts:

That some universities, like Trinity College Dublin, have tried to implement Proctorio in certain faculties, as well as that individual lecturers are requiring the use of this software.

Comhdháil further notes:

The opposition of student unions to visual and audio proctoring for exams, and the need for the USI to support student unions in this and the use of Universal Design for Learning approaches to assessment.

Comhdháil therefore mandates:

USI to adopt a stance against the use of visual and audio proctoring of exams by third-level institutions in Ireland. That the USI VP for Academic Affairs and President to support MO’s whose institutions are under threat of the implementation of such proctoring within their assessment schedule.


2024 AA      CN     2         Motion to Cut Ties with University Rankings

Comhdháil praises:

In recent times, Utrecht University, a member of the League of European Research Universities (LERU), made the commendable decision to opt out of the Times Higher Education World University Ranking for 2024.

Comhdháil understands:

This decision was taken because Utrecht University prioritizes collaboration and open science, while university rankings often emphasize competition, which is in contrast to their values. Concerns were also raised regarding the one-sidedness and methodological practices of university rankings in general. It was also mentioned that they are ceasing the approach of using impact factors in research assessment, instead aligning with a commitment to open science and responsible research evaluation, and the national and international movement behind it.

Comhdháil praises:

The efforts of the Coalition for Advancing Research Assessment (COARA), which Utrecht University is a member of, and its strategy to reduce reliance on rankings.

Comhdháil further understands:

That university rankings perpetuate social exclusion and promote a managerial approach that relies on numbers rather than holistic education. The corporate ethos present in these rankings pushes for the neoliberalization of our institutions, fostering a world of unequal opportunities and elitism.

Comhdháil also understands:

That university rankings can reflect colonial legacies, favoring former colonial powers and perpetuating inequalities in higher education. This inherently biased system influences the desirability of alumni within the job market and pits institutions against one another without considering the local context or individual countries’ unique needs.

Comhdháil is specifically concerned:

Numerous Western universities were built and rose to prominence on the back of slavery and the profits extracted therein. University rankings represent a form of intellectual imperialism, a “captive mind” in which universities outside of the Western world are forced to conform to Western corporatized ideas of what a university is and conform to the worldwide market of universities that is embodied by the idea of competitive university rankings. The requirement to conform to a paradigm stands at odds with the needs of local contexts and individual countries, as well as to the principles of academic freedom, and represents neo-colonial encroachment by Western institutions on universities in postcolonial countries. The  rankings force universities worldwide to conform to a prescribed framework, irrespective of their unique purpose or context. This, in turn, places pressure on universities to participate in the global knowledge production business, publish research in international journals (often inaccessible to the local population), and invest in endeavors far removed from the needs of their local societies

Comhdháil notes:

It is time for Irish universities to re-evaluate their participation in university rankings.

Comhdháil therefore mandates:

That the USI VP for Campaigns and VP For Education and President write to all third-level institution presidents asking them to re-evaluate their participation in the university rankings system.

2024 AA      CN     3         Motion on eBook licensing

Comhdháil states

The USI is concerned at the state of the e-book publishing and licensing scene. The multinational companies that have monopolized the market have hiked license fees, draining the taxpayer, our libraries and our institutions out of money, while leaving authors out of pocket. There are also severe restrictions on what libraries can do with e-books once purchased, such as simultaneous viewing limitations. Arbitrary limitations, sudden price increases and lack of access – our libraries are being held hostage by publishers.

Libraries cannot buy eBooks and eAudiobooks, they can only licence them. This means they have to accept the restrictions that publishers place on these items, something they do not have to do with print books.

Not all publishers make eBooks available for licensing to libraries. Unlike with print, parts of the universe of eBooks are off limits to libraries, through the decision of private companies. This situation does not exist with print as the copyright framework, through the first sale doctrine and its equivalents, enables libraries to buy whatever books they want. As libraries are no longer free to buy whatever they choose, collection development is impacted upon leading to a dearth of content in non-English languages, or titles for specific user groups.

The #ebooksos campaign has highlighted the unfair practices of publishing companies. The campaign that was originally started in the United Kingdom has reached Ireland and has resonated across the world with libraries. Knowledge should be accessible, but increasingly it has been turned into a commodity . For example, textbooks that cost “£44 for a print copy are £423 for a single e-book user and £500 for three users”. This is a ridiculous situation which shows that regulation is needed in the industry. By August 2023, more than 5,000 people, students and academics, have signed the open letter put forward by the #ebooksos campaign, including the Library Association of Ireland.

Last year, higher education and public libraries spent in excess of €3 million on ebooks.

Librarians in Ireland have demonstrated that some high-profile e-books are twenty times more expensive than their print equivalent, and a price differential of three to ten times is quite typical.. As well as this, in Ireland too terms and conditions attached to the e-books purchased by libraries can be Kafkesque.. related to this issue is the academic publishers – students know all too well the issue of when writing an assignment and being hit with a paywall and lack of institutional access. As a result, and in recognition of this situation, many student unions, such as Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union have motions in support of open access. The situation is one in which neither libraries, authors nor students and institutions and their researchers come out positively. The taxpayer, and the government, is also held hostage to the whims of big publishing companies, and the subsidization to keep our libraries afloat in light of extortionate publisher pricing is a big burden on the exchequer.

Comhdháil endorses

The demands of the Library Association of Ireland, specifically:

  • Significant reductions in annual database, journal subscription and open access costs, not increases or price freezes to recognise the reality of library budgets.
  • Increased transparency and sustainability in ebook costs and licensing. In public libraries, the average cost of an ebook is three times the cost of a print book, with far greater restrictions on how it can be used. In academic libraries the situation is even worse – academic ebook costs can often be ten times as much as for the same paper book.  Price rises are common, sudden and appear arbitrary. The CIAEM cites examples of well-known publishers increasing costs for a single-user ebook by 200% or more with no warning in 2020.
  • A deep discount on ebooks and e-textbooks where their print equivalents have been purchased in recent years. Instead at present ebooks are almost always more expensive, and frequently significantly and prohibitively so.
  • Publishers to make all currently available and forthcoming books and textbooks available in accessible electronic format to libraries. At present approximately 20% of titles are available in e-format but this is much lower in certain disciplines.  In some cases, a book is available as an ebook to an individual to purchase, but not available to a library to purchase.
  • More flexibility in content selection to allow libraries to disaggregate collections.
  • Ending ‘exploding licences’ – time-based licences that force books to be deleted from collections after a certain period of time.
  • More government support for the creation and use of Open Education Resources (OER) and the associated curation infrastructure to ensure sustainable access.
  • Copyright law reform to:
  • Remove the requirement for libraries to purchase versions of ebooks licensed specifically for library use which are subject to the aforementioned pricing and licensing obstacles.
  • Allow libraries to scan whole books they own in print where ebooks are unavailable or unaffordable for preservation and for controlled access to support research and learning.

2024 AA      1         Rethinking Assessment   ***

Proposed by: Academic Affairs Working Group

Comhdháil notes:

Traditional means of assessment are not always fit for purpose or reflective of the challenges that will be posed to students post-graduation in the working environment.

Comhdháil further notes:

Stress, burnout, and other mental health concerns are readily linked to the continuous use of traditional forms of assessment, particularly where the outcome does not match the effort needed.

Comhdháil therefore mandates:

USI to support assessment reform initiatives throughout the sector, and the Vice President for Academic Affairs and Vice President for Postgraduate Affairs to review mainstream assessment modes and advocate for the repurposing of assessment modes to ensure inter-sectional assessment with a focus on the constant adaptability of such modes to be reflective of the challenges of the modern day and the needs of students.

Comhdháil further mandates

The Vice President for Academic Affairs and the Vice President for Postgraduate to emphasize, through their advocacy for assessment reform, the need for due consideration of the need of all students for accessible assessment.


2024 AA      2         Hidden Costs Support and Transparency **

Proposed by Academic Affairs Working Group

Comhdháil notes:

That many students are required to pay additional costs, on top of the student contribution/tuition fee. This includes but is not limited to materials charges, field trips, uniform costs, software costs, and medical costs. These can range from 10s to 1000s of euros/pounds.

Comhdháil further notes:

In many cases, there is limited, or no information provided to students in advance of enrolment on the additional costs that they will be required to pay throughout the course of their studies, especially when specific paid software is used for teaching, but not made available for students. These costs are also often not covered by grants made available to students, such as SUSI.

Comhdháil further notes:

That these materials may sometimes be made available on devices owned by the HEI (for example, in computer labs), but not for use on students’ personal devices.

Comhdháil believes:

That this is not an acceptable solution, especially for students who may have long commutes, who must work part time, or students with disabilities. These spaces are often also being used close to capacity, meaning that students have a very limited window in which to use them outside of class hours.

Comhdháil further believes:

Hidden additional costs serve as a further reminder of the marketized Higher Education system that students across the island are being subjected to, and may further inhibit students from progressing in their education particularly where these costs are mandatory.

Comhdháil mandates:

The USI President and Vice President for Academic Affairs engage with key stakeholders, including the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, to require institutions to provide full transparency of all additional costs within their institutions to prospective students.

Comhdháil further mandates:

The USI President and Vice President for Academic Affairs engage with key stakeholders, including the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, to provide adequate funding to institutions so that these costs do not need to be levied on students.

Comhdháil further mandates:

The USI Coiste Gnó to support MOs in raising awareness of additional course costs within their colleges, and in lobbying for the reduction or abolishment of all additional costs. The USI Coiste Gnó to support NUS-USI members in ensuring that institutions in the North continue to comply with CMA requirements around the publication of additional costs.

Comhdháil Repeals: 2021 AA 1: Hidden Course Costs


2024 AA      3         Student Survey Boycott and Reform **

Proposed by Maynooth Students’ Union

Comhdháil notes:

That is an organisation and survey that gathers data on students’ experiences of higher education across a number of areas. Having operated for 6 years, the survey utilises connections with HEI faculty and students’ unions in order to carry out and promote the survey on a yearly basis, creating a set of recommendations for each institution that are then put forward to senior staff in institutions.

Comhdháil further notes:

That the survey more recently has been momentarily stopped due to a level of pushback from Students’ Unions such as TCDSU and MSU, which both passed student survey boycott motions.

Comhdháil believes:

That student survey is a corporatised organisation that doesn’t actively contribute to en-mass positive reform and change in HEIs that benefits the students, many USI MOs have put in countless hours of work in promoting the survey in return for increasingly low amounts of actual results and action from their institutions. The equivalent, the National Student Survey is boycotted in the U.K. by the NUS for similar reasons.

Comhdháil mandates:

That USI boycott student survey until which point that the survey takes a student-centric, holistic and structured approach to their process, acknowledging the influencing factors in the higher education landscape such as lack of funding, precarious tutor and teaching contracts, student exploitation, and treating students not as consumers but as the most integral part of higher education, as community members and as partners in their work.

Comhdháil further mandates:

That the VP Academic Affairs ensures that reforms to as an organisation and as a survey should be done with comprehensive consultation with member organisations and USI and that structurally, the survey’s reform moves to prevent inordinate exploitation of students’ union resources in StudentSurvey processes, to implement systems that puts pressure/must reform, and that the survey focuses not on ‘the amount of time and effort that students put into meaningful and purposeful educational activities, and the extent to which institutions provide such opportunities and encourage students to engage with them’ ( website) and instead on teaching quality, student welfare, quality assurance processes, staff working conditions, socio-economic impacts of access on education and student wellbeing.

Comhdháil further mandates:

That the VP Academic Affairs lobbies StudentSurvey,ie to include as part of their system, if it is reformed and relaunched in the future, a need for on-going active commitments from HEIs in regards to implementation of survey recommendations, comprehensive and structured processes in the consideration of survey results and mandatory resource and promotion allocation from participating institutions.

2024 AA      4         North South Mobility Education Entry for Students *

Proposed by the Vice President for Academic Affairs

Comhdháil Notes:

Students both north and south lack information on how to pursue further and higher education outside of their jurisdictions. Students in the Republic of Ireland are unfamiliar with UCAS and writing personal statements, and students in the North find the CAO challenging.

Comhdháil Regrets:

There is a lack of accessible information available to students on how to study over the border.

Comhdháil Further Regrets:

The difficulties of grade requirements faced by students in the north when applying for the CAO with their A levels which act as a barrier to students’ mobility.

Comhdháil Mandates:

The Vice President of Academic Affairs with the help of the Coiste Gnó to liaise with NUS-USI, the Irish Second-level Students’ Union (ISSU) and the Secondary Students’ Union of North Ireland (SSUNI) to push for better information and resources to allow for north-south mobility for all students.  USI will also reach out to Universities Ireland on this.

2024 AA      5         Apprenticeship Representation in Ireland *

Proposed by Vice President for Academic Affairs

Comhdháil Recognises:

The Department of Further, Higher, Education Science, Innovation & Research has created more apprenticeships across many fields throughout the country.

Comhdháil Welcomes:

Apprenticeships as a means of education, allowing for more people to become learners in a way that best supports them.

Comhdháil Notes:

Currently apprentices have no representative body to protect and advocate for better conditions and further their rights as learners. Currently, there is no democratically elected voice for apprentices in the South of Ireland, this is fulfilled in the North of Ireland by the National Society of Apprentices (NSoA)

Comhdháil Mandates:

The VP for Academic Affairs with the in assistance of the Coiste Gnó to pursue an appropriate representative structure for apprentices. The VP for Academic Affairs will liaise with apprentices and appropriate bodies. They will also ensure democracy is at the core of this structure.

2024 AA      6         State Supports for Students Fleeing Conflict Zones *

Proposed by the Vice-President for Campaigns

Comhdháil Notes

That in most cases where students fleeing conflict zones arrive in Ireland and subsequently wish to continue their education, such cases are dealt with on a case-to-case basis in the absence of a national policy to inform the approach taken when such cases arise.

Comhdháil further notes

That specific conflicts where EU policy informs the approach taken by third-level education actors in respect of students displaced from those conflicts, there remains a need for a national policy for such cases,  and current schemes for the enrolment of students in such cases do not cater to those with dual-citizenship that have not lived in EU/EEA States long enough to satisfy the residency requirement associated with the ‘free-fees initiative’ but have been forced to return to Ireland as a result of conflict in their country of residence.

Comhdháil notes with concern

The increasing impact of global conflicts on education, often seeing higher education institutions being partially or completely destroyed

Comhdháil believes

That all students fleeing conflict zones that have been granted international protection in Ireland, or in the case of those holding a dual-citizenship, have returned to Ireland, must be supported by the State in continuing their education in Ireland.

Comhdháil further believes

That students in such situations often have gone through a traumatic experience leaving considerations like tuition fees, making available official documentation and finding student accommodation to be extremely burdensome to resolve.

Comhdháil commends

The various institutions, individuals and groups that have supported the enrolment of students in such situations in Irish HEIs.

Comhdháil therefore mandates

The VP Academic Affairs and the VP Campaigns to lobby the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation, the Irish University Association, the Technological Higher Education Association, and Universities Ireland to produce a policy for the supported enrollment of students that have fled conflict zones and sought refuge in Ireland whether they wish to commence or continue third-level education in Ireland.

Comhdháil further mandates

The VP Academic Affairs and the VP Campaigns to highlight the need for such policy to mitigate issues including but not limited to: fee status, student supports, financial support, measures to ease integration of the students into HEIs and the inability of students to produce official documentation from their home institutions.


2024 AA      7         NStEP Oversight and Engagement *

Proposed by Vice President for Academic Affairs

Comhdháil Notes: The National Student Engagement Programme [NStEP], which was officially launched in 2016 as a joint initiative between USI, the Higher Education Authority [HEA] and Quality and Qualifications Ireland [QQI], to embed student engagement practice through championing meaningful staff-student partnerships in Irish Higher Education Institutions. The work that has been undertaken so far through the NStEP programme including the roll-out of the class rep training programme, and the creation of National Projects, focused on specific areas within student engagement in Higher Education.

Comhdháil Believes: The National Student Engagement Programme (NStEP) is a valuable programme which assists Member Organisations greatly with the training of class representatives and can remove some pressure from SU officers.

Comhdháil Notes with Interest: USI assisted in spearheading NStEP’s foundation and implementation to ensure class representatives are trained in areas such as representation, governance and signposting.

Comhdháil Mandates: The VP for Academic Affairs to ensure a strong relationship with the NStEP Programme Manager and their team- this should include regular communication, updates and quarterly meetings. This will be to ensure the contents and materials that NStEP produces are student centric, accessible and encourage class representatives to take part in student democracy.

Comhdháil Further Mandates: The VP for Academic Affairs to ensure the continued funding of NStEP to benefit class representatives for years to come by keeping in regular contact with the HEA and QQI.

Repeal: 20 AA 08


2024 AA      8         Accreditation for Participation

Proposed by DCU Students’ Union

Comhdháil recognises:

The importance of student participation in extracurricular activities such as clubs & societies, Students’ Unions, volunteering and civic engagement during their time in college, and the benefits that engaging in such activity brings about in terms of the overall personal development of the student.

Comhdháil further recognises:

The continued promotion by Students’ Unions of students getting involved in these activities, and the associated advantages which can be conferred on students who have been active in these areas when seeking future employment.

Comhdháil notes:

The development of modules and recognition within programmes which exist in some Higher Education Institutions to accredit students for their involvement and participation in these activities, in order to facilitate, recognise and encourage their nonacademic as well as academic development whilst in college.

Comhdháil Believes:

That involvement in these activities presents benefits for students both inside and outside of formal teaching, and that this should be reflected in the formal awards conferred on students.

Comhdháil therefore mandates:

The Vice-President for Academic Affairs to research best practice across Higher Education Institutions in this area, both nationally and internationally, with a view to developing USI policy on Accreditation for Participation which may be presented to the appropriate bodies  in HEIs by Students’ Unions who wish to do so. This should include where participation in these activities can result in ECTS credits being awarded to students.

Comhdháil Repeals:

20 AA (NC) 2: Accreditation for Participation

2018 AA 4: Accreditation for Volunteering & Participation


Accreditation for Participation