The higher education grants scheme operates under the Local Authorities (Higher Education Grants) Acts, 1968 to 1992. An approved institution is defined to mean a university, university college or other institution of higher education in so far as it provides a course or courses of not less than two years duration, being a course or courses which the Minister for Education and Science approves for the time being for the purposes of the Acts.
Each year, the higher education grants scheme specifies a list of approved institutions for the purposes of the scheme. The approved institutions mainly comprise publicly funded third level institutions. Any extension to the scope of the grants scheme, to include private colleges, which avail of the CAO system for processing applications for admission to third level institutions, can be considered only in the light of available resources and in the context of competing demands within the education sector.
Tax relief is available at the standard rate on fees paid to certain private colleges in accordance with the provisions contained in section 6 of the Finance Act, 1995 and section 15 of the Finance Act, 1996. In addition, the Finance Act, 2000, provides tax relief for fees paid in respect of approved postgraduate courses, including courses in approved private third level colleges.