Tuesday, 24 November 2020

Questions (648)

Neale Richmond


648. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science if consideration is being given to offer a partial fees refund to third-level students at postgraduate level in view of the move to online learning; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37944/20]

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Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

It is important to note in relation to this issue that applications to undertake study at postgraduatelevel are made directly to individual higher education institutions. Higher education institutions are autonomous institutions as provided for in legislation and on that basis, the criteria governing the level of tuition fees to be charged in the case of postgraduate study is solely a matter for the relevant institution to determine in line with its own criteria.

I am very conscious of the impact the pandemic has had on our students. To ensure the safety of our students and staff in further and higher education, the majority of college will be online for this semester. In recognition of the challenges facing full time third level students the Government has approved once off funding of €50m to provide additional financial assistance in this academic year.

The funding, which was provided in Budget 2021, will offer financial assistance to all Irish/EU full-time undergraduate and postgraduate students attending publically funded Higher Education Institutions in recognition of the significant upheaval they have experienced due to Covid-19 pandemic.

The scheme will provide students who avail of the SUSI grant will receive €250 top-up in their grant before Christmas or in early 2021, while students who do not avail of the grant can reduce by €250 any outstanding contribution fee payments or receive a €250 credit note for their institution. In a small number of cases, alternative arrangements may be made for the distribution to students.

Additionally Budget 2021 provides further funding to enhance SUSI grant supports for post-grads and increase support for the PATH access initiative, which seeks to increase participation in Higher Education from the most economically disadvantaged students.

This builds on the specific student supports in response to Covid, which I announced in July including including a doubling of the Student Assistance Fund.