The charge referred to by the Deputies is levied by third level institutions to defray the costs of examinations, registration and student services. The increase in the charge brings the amount contributed by students more into line with the cost of providing these services.
Students who are eligible for means tested student support will, in addition to any grant they are entitled to, have the €670 charge paid on their behalf by my Department or by the local authorities and vocational education committees. This means that 34% of students in universities and 47% of students in institutes of technology will not have to pay the charge.
The increase in the charge should be viewed in the context of an overall package of measures that I announced earlier this year aimed at increasing and improving the student support schemes for the 2002-03 academic year. In the present financial year the Government will spend over €360 million on student supports.
It is estimated that the cost per student of providing third level education in the present academic year will exceed €6,000 for arts, law and business courses, €8,000 for science courses and €9,000 for engineering and medicine. The contribution from the students has to be seen in the light of these figures.