My Department has contacted Cork Corporation on this matter and it is understood the student, referred to by the Deputy, has been assessed as being eligible for a local authority higher education maintenance grant for the current academic year, 2000-01. The processing of the grant application cannot be finalised until confirmation is received from University College Cork that the student is a registered full-time student in the current academic year. It is further understood that her college registration cannot be effected until her tuition fees in respect of the 1999-2000 academic year are paid.
My Department understands that the student holds a Higher Diploma in Social Policy and commenced a two year masters course in social work at University College Cork in 1999. The higher education grants scheme which applied to the 1999-2000 academic year precluded grants being awarded to candidates who already held a postgraduate qualification and were pursuing a second postgraduate qualification. Accordingly, the student in question was deemed ineligible for a higher education grant in respect of the 1999-2000 academic year.
Last October I amended the student support schemes to provide financial assistance to eligible candidates who already hold a postgraduate qualification and who wish to enter a further postgraduate course at a higher level, which represents progression from the level at which the first qualification was attained. This amendment is operative from the current academic year, 2000-01 and, accordingly, the student in question is eligible to receive a grant for maintenance and fees, in respect of the current academic year, provided the other conditions in the grant scheme as to means etc. are fulfilled.
There are no plans to give retrospective effect to this amendment to cover academic years prior to 2000-01.