Under the terms of my Department's Free Fee Initiative the Exchequer meets the cost of tuition fees in respect of eligible students who are pursuing full-time undergraduate courses of study which are a minimum of two years duration in an approved higher education institution. The main conditions of the scheme are that students must be first-time undergraduates, hold inter alia EU/EEA/Swiss nationality in their own right, and have been ordinarily resident in an EU/EEA/Swiss state for at least three of the five years preceding their entry to an approved third level course.
The position is that the assessment of eligibility in individual cases is a matter for each higher education institution to determine within the terms of the scheme. I understand from clarification received by my officials that in this case the relevant higher education institution has advised the student of their eligibility status.
The Springboard programme provides free part time higher education courses for unemployed people in areas where there are identified labour market skills shortages, such as ICT, Manufacturing and International Financial Services. Springboard places are open to unemployed people who have a previous history of employment and there is no requirement that a person be progressing on the National Framework of Qualifications. More than 10,000 places have been provided under the two rounds of the programme to date. A new call for proposals for Springboard courses was issued to higher education providers at the end of February and is expected to provide for an additional 5,000 places in 2013. Further information is available at the dedicated information and applications website: www.springboardcourses.ie.