The Deputy will be aware that the Programme for Government contains a commitment to increase financial supports for postgraduate students with a particular focus on those from low income households. In meeting this commitment, additional funding of €7m was secured in Budgets 2017 and 2018 to facilitate the reinstatement of full maintenance grants from September 2017, for the most disadvantaged postgraduate students. This benefitted circa 1,000 postgraduate students who met the eligibility criteria for the special rate of maintenance grant and reversed the budgetary cut that was imposed on this cohort of students in 2012.
The statutory based Student Grant Scheme and Student Support Regulations are reviewed annually by my Department, following consultation with various stakeholders.
The Student Grant Scheme and Student Support Regulations for the 2019/20 academic year, were published on 11 April 2019.
With regard to the application of the distance criterion, the measurement criteria have not changed for the 2019/20 academic year. The measurement of the distances relating to the award of adjacent or non-adjacent rates of student grant is a matter for the relevant grant awarding authority. The distance measurement for student grant rates is governed by Article 27(3)(a) and (b) of the Student Grant Scheme 2019. This provides that the relevant distance will be measured in line with agreed guidelines.
The guidelines require that the shortest most direct route between the applicant's normal residence and the institution being attended should apply. In determining the shortest most direct route, the relevant awarding authority shall establish:
- the method for measuring a route; and
- the factors to be taken into account in establishing and measuring a route.
SUSI has progressively introduced a number of measures that are intended to make the Student Grant Scheme more efficient for students. One of these measures is the introduction of Eircode which has helped to reduce processing times for applicants.
However, the actual calculation of distance from a student's home to college has not changed from previous years, and SUSI continues to use google maps to calculate distance.