Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Questions (209)

Patrick Nulty


209. Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will confirm that the student assistance fund will not expire for the 2013/14 academic year and that it will continue in place; his views on whether there is an even greater need for the fund in the current economic circumstances in view of the increase in numbers of students availing or attempting to avail of the fund recently; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11461/13]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The objective of the Student Assistance Fund is to assist students, in a sensitive and compassionate manner, who might otherwise, due to their financial circumstances, be unable to continue their third level studies. The Fund is managed by the Higher Education Authority (HEA) on behalf of my Department and is funded under the National Development Plan, with assistance from the European Social Fund. A survey conducted by the HEA in November 2012 showed that the higher education sector is experiencing a significant increase in demand for the Fund over last year. In response to the increased demand, I approved an additional €3m to supplement the Fund, which was allocated in December 2012, bringing the total allocation for 2012-13 to €11m. The Fund is expected to assist in the region of 16,000 students this academic year. I have no plans at present to discontinue the Student Assistance Fund.