Friday, 6 September 2019

Questions (338)

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire


338. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Education and Skills the way in which Ireland compares to other OECD countries in relation to student fees. [35263/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

Student costs vary considerably across the OECD, from countries such as the United States and England where tuition fees are at the highest levels to a number of EU countries where no tuition fees are payable by students. The OECD Report, “Education at a Glance 2018” provides data on the structure, finances and performance of education systems in the 35 OECD countries, and a number of partner countries, and provides data on tuition fees and public supports across the OECD. Higher education is structured and funded in a wide variety of ways and arrangements are highly dependent on the context and circumstances of each individual country.

As the Deputy will be aware, in Ireland students who are eligible for assistance under the free fees schemes, receive funding towards their tuition fees with the student paying a Student Contribution which currently stands at €3,000. The contribution was introduced with effect from the 2011/12 academic year and has remained at €3,000 since 2014/15.

It is important to note that the exchequer pays the contribution (or part of it) on behalf of almost 50% of undergraduate students who are in receipt of student grant assistance. In addition, tax relief provisions are also available so that second and subsequent siblings do not have to bear the full cost.

I am committed to a schedule which is progressing key reviews and reforms of Higher Education Funding which includes an economic examination of the three policy options proposed by the report on future funding of higher education (Cassells report).  My Department engaged with the European Commission and successfully secured their assistance to undertake this work through the Structural Reform Support Programme (SRSP).  The SRSP provides tailor-made support to all EU countries for their institutional, administrative and growth-enhancing reforms.  In Q3 2019 the Commission sought the submission for proposals to undertake the review as outlined in the detailed Terms of Reference.  It is expected that the evaluation of applications will be completed in September 2020. The review is envisaged to commence following this process. This review will inform future policy decisions on higher education funding.