Written Answers. - Higher Education Grants.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

93 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Education and Science his plans to provide educational grants or reductions in fees to non-EU nationals whose parents are paying tax here and who would qualify for such assistance if they were EU or Irish citizens. [21689/02]

Under the terms of the free fees initiative my Department meets the tuition fees of eligible students who are attending full-time undergraduate courses, of at least two years duration, at approved colleges.

Eligible students are those who are first-time undergraduates and hold EU nationality or have official refugee status and have been ordinarily resident in an EU member state for at least three of the five years preceding their entry to an approved course. This condition applies to all EU nationals, including Irish nationals, in accordance with a judgment of the European Court of Justice that access to vocational training must apply equally to all EU nationals.

To qualify for grant assistance under my Department's maintenance grants schemes a candidate must meet the conditions relating to residence, age, means and nationality. The nationality requirement states that candidates must hold EU nationality, have official refugee status or have been granted humanitarian leave to remain in the State. My Department proposes to review the nationality requirement in the maintenance grants schemes to ensure future compliance with relevant legislation, including the terms of the Equal Status Act, 2000.
A number of tax relief provisions on the payment of tuition fees at third level have been introduced in recent years. Further details and conditions in relation to such tax relief are available from any tax office.