Education Schemes

Questions (642)

Jennifer Carroll MacNeill

Question:

642. Deputy Jennifer Carroll MacNeill asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science the number of persons in direct provision that have availed of the support scheme since changes were made in each year and to date in 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37862/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

The number of persons who are either asylum applicants, subsidiary protection applicants, or leave to remain applicants who have availed of the Student Support Scheme for Asylum Seekers since its establishment in 2015 is outlined in the table below.

Pilot Support Scheme

2015/16

2016/17

2017/18

2018/19

2019/20

2020/21*

Qualifying for support

2

2

1

1

5

26

Awaiting documentation

-----

-----

----

----

----

29

*closing date for receipt of applications for 2020/21 academic year is 6 November 2020

Education and Training Boards

Questions (643)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

643. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science if he will address the case of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37876/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

Officials in my Department have contacted Kerry Education and Training Board (KETB) about this matter. KETB have informed my Department that the welding course is due to commence in Tralee on 7 December 2020. It has been decided that this course can only proceed with ten learners, instead of the usual number of fourteen, in compliance with health and safety measures concerning Covid-19. To ensure the safety of all participants Kerry ETB are unable to increase the number of learners beyond those ten places. KETB have informed my officials that the applicant in question was placed fourth on a reserve list and that the next available welding course is scheduled to take place on 16 January 2020.

Brexit Preparations

Questions (644)

Neale Richmond

Question:

644. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science the number of businesses that have availed of customs training ahead of Brexit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37879/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

Skillnet Ireland's Clear Customs programme is the key support in this area funded by my Department through the National Training Fund. The programme has been designed in collaboration with industry bodies in the exporting, freight and logistics sectors for companies as they prepare for the new customs requirements post-Brexit.

There has been a positive response to the Clear Customs scheme. 1,572 company applications have been approved for training and 1,566 participants have enrolled in Clear Customs since its launch.

Erasmus+ Programme

Questions (645)

Neale Richmond

Question:

645. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science if students from Northern Ireland will be in a position to avail of the Erasmus programme post-Brexit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37880/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

My Department has been very conscious of the impact of the UK withdrawal from the EU on the education sector and and has been preparing for the impact for some time.

The final outcome of the EU-UK negotiations will determine whether the UK will continue to have access to the Erasmus+ programme beyond the current period. I certainly hope that an agreement on this aspect can be found as it would be of benefit to both the EU and the UK's citizens.

However, the Government has decided that arrangements to ensure that students in Northern Ireland higher education institutions should have continued access to the Erasmus programme need to be put in place. This is part of our commitment to ensuring that the rights of Irish citizens in Northern Ireland to access EU entitlements can be protected to the gresatest extent possible after Brexit.

My officials are working on the details of this arrangement in case it should be needed.

Legislative Process

Questions (646)

Carol Nolan

Question:

646. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science the details of all applications made by his Department to the Oireachtas Business Committee to waive pre-legislative scrutiny of primary and secondary legislation sponsored or initiated by his Department from 1 January 2017 to date; the outcomes of such applications; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37896/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

The Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science was established in July 2020. Since the establishment of the Department there have been no applications to waive pre legislative scrutiny of primary and secondary legislation. Information in respect of the period from 1 January 2017 to July 2020 has been referred to the Department of Education for their direct reply as these matter were under the remit of that Department during that time.

Departmental Staff

Questions (647)

Patrick Costello

Question:

647. Deputy Patrick Costello asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science the grade at which the chief data protection officer in his Department is employed. [37925/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

I will be making an assignment of a Data Protection Officer in my Department shortly. The role is currently covered by a Principal Officer based in the Department of Education who acts also as the Data Protection Officer for that Department.

Third Level Fees

Questions (648)

Neale Richmond

Question:

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]

View answer

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.

Further and Higher Education

Questions (649)

Alan Farrell

Question:

649. Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science his plans to reskill and retrain workers in the area of climate change; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37968/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

The upskilling and reskilling of workers in the area of climate change is delivered across the tertiary education sector.

The Programme for Government has set highly-ambitious targets in relation to climate change including actions under the Climate Action Plan to retrofit 500,000 homes and install 400,000 heat pumps in existing homes over the next 10 years to reduce carbon emissions and make homes more comfortable.

A dedicated Near Zero Energy Building (NZEB) training centre has been established in Wexford and is currently providing programmes to construction workers in areas such as plumbing, electrical, bricklaying, carpentry and plastering. Funding under the Skills to Advance Innovation Fund is being used to develop new delivery modes and enhance training capacity to facilitate the wider national delivery of these programmes. Work is also ongoing on the delivery of train-the-trainer programmes to ensure that the construction sector is appropriately positioned to expand to meet expected demand for programmes.

Retrofit skills training is currently provided by Waterford Wexford Education and Training Board and the Laois Offaly Education and Training Board. 5 Retrofit Centres of Excellence are being developed and are expected to be operational in 2021. It is anticipated that in 2020, 620 individuals will complete training courses in retrofit skills, including Near Zero Energy Buildings (NZEB) skills and this number is expected to double in 2021.

As part of the July Stimulus, the Government allocated €500,000 to expand skills development infrastructure in preparation for the significant increase in reskilling required to deliver the National Retrofitting Programme. Budget 2021 provided for an additional 500 places on 10 week retrofitting courses in addition to the expected increase for existing short courses.

Over 15,000 places on Springboard+ and Human Capital Initiative Pillar 1 graduate conversion courses were announced in July, and a further 2,000 places were provided as a direct response to the skills needs arising from Covid-19 under the July Stimulus. These courses include areas such as Near Zero Energy Buildings, wind energy, solar energy, and sustainable energy systems. The July Stimulus also provided for over 2,000 free or subsidised full and part time postgraduate places on a range of existing courses in 23 public and private higher education institutions. The places are available on courses in a wide range of skills areas, including Environmental Sciences, sustainable energy.

Also funded under the July Stimulus are a range of modular courses which are short and focused and will be offered in a flexible manner, allowing people to gain important skills without taking a considerable period away from the labour market. Each module will be stand-alone so that participants can gain skills and put them into practice immediately in the workplace, but modules are also accredited in such a way as to provide building blocks to a full qualification should the student so wish. These 538 modular courses across a broad range of subjects in 32 higher education institutions, represent a new route into lifelong learning, and provide upskilling and reskilling opportunities for those who need it, while ensuring that they remain close to the labour market. They include courses in renewable energy, NZEB policy and techniques, and BIM.

In addition, Green Tech Skillnet, funded by Skillnet Ireland through the National Training Fund and promoted by the Irish Wind Energy Association (IWEA), provides training for enterprises in the renewable energy and green technology sectors. Member companies work collaboratively to share best practice and to respond effectively to the specific skills needs of the sector. The network addresses both technical and non-technical skills needs of members. Skillnet Ireland will also be rolling out a new climate action upskilling scheme in 2021.

Student Universal Support Ireland

Questions (650)

Bríd Smith

Question:

650. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science if SUSI, when calculating the period of time in which an applicant's parents must have been on jobseeker's benefit, has a threshold that states this period must be over 391 days but that when calculating this period only allot six days a week and that therefore the period must be a total of 65 calendar weeks; if so, if this method is unique to SUSI when calculating applicants’ eligibility criteria; if it is the practice of SUSI to cut off the payments of a student’s grant in 2020 if it discovers an error or possible error in the way in which it calculated the income of the parents in 2018 given that the year applicable is supposed to be the preceding year and cutting off students income can have huge and detrimental effects on students concerned; if SUSI communicates with students in a situation in which it has decided to stop the payment of a student grant for any reason; and if such communication allows for an appeal of that decision prior to the cessation of the grant payments. [37978/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

The decision on eligibility for a student grant is a matter for SUSI to determine. In assessing an application for the 2020/21 academic year, SUSI will have regard to the following qualifying criteria for the special rate of maintenance grant: 1. The student must qualify for the standard rate of grant; 2. Total reckonable income, after income disregards and Child Dependant Increase(s) are excluded, must not exceed €24,500; 3. As at 31st of December 2019, the reckonable income must include one of the eligible long-term social welfare payments prescribed in Schedule 2 of the Student Grant Scheme 2020.

The report of the Action Group on Access to Third Level Education made detailed recommendations concerning the introduction of special rates of maintenance grants for disadvantaged students. The target group of "those most in need" was defined in terms of the dependants of people receiving long-term welfare payments, where the necessary conditions are fulfilled.

In general terms, Jobseekers Benefit is considered to be a short-term payment unless it is held for 391 consecutive days at 31 December 2019. The 391 days is the time period as determined by DEASP for a social welfare payment to be regarded as long term, and refers to social welfare days as opposed to calendar days. Jobseeker’s Benefit is operated by DEASP on a 6 day week basis.

The Student Grant Scheme makes provision for combining periods of Jobseeker's Allowance, Jobseeker's Benefit and other eligible payments for the purposes of meeting 391 days as determined by the Department of Social Protection.

Families on low incomes may wish to enquire with the Department of Social Protection as to their eligibility for the Working Family Payment (which is an eligible payment for the purposes of the Special Rate of Grant).

As part of SUSI’s internal processes, Post Assessment Quality Reviews are carried out on applications both for the current academic year and all prior academic years. This includes fast track renewal applications. If a student was in receipt of funding in the previous academic year, they may have the option to make a fast track renewal application. The student is asked if there have been any changes since the last academic year and if the student answers there has not been any change, the same rate of funding is awarded as in the previous year. If a change is found during a review, the rate awarded may be revised. In such cases, the student receives a letter notifying them of the revised decision and/or SUSI may request additional documentation to ensure that applicants are awarded the best possible rate of grant. A revised decision can be appealed and the appeals process is outlined in the letter.

If an individual applicant considers that she/he has been unjustly refused a student grant, or that the rate of grant awarded is not the correct one, she/he may appeal, in the first instance, to SUSI.

Where an individual applicant has had an appeal turned down in writing by an appeals officer in SUSI and remains of the view that the scheme has not been interpreted correctly in his/her case, an appeal may be submitted to the independent Student Grants Appeals Board within the required timeframe, (i.e. not later than 30 days after the notification of the determination of the appeals officer to the applicant). Such appeals can be made by the appellant on line via www.studentgrantappeals.ie.

Students in third-level institutions experiencing exceptional financial need can apply for support under the Student Assistance Fund. This Fund assists students, in a sensitive and compassionate manner, who might otherwise be unable to continue their third level studies due to their financial circumstances. Details of this fund are available from the Access Office in the institution attended. This fund is administered on a confidential, discretionary basis.

In addition, tax relief at the standard rate of tax may also be available in respect of tuition fees paid for approved courses at approved colleges of higher education. Further information on this tax relief is available from a student's local Tax Office or from the Revenue Commissioners website, www.revenue.ie.

Third Level Institutions

Questions (651)

John McGuinness

Question:

651. Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science the role of his Department relative to the oversight of the HEA and the institutes of technology; if he has a specific role to ensure that good governance is maintained in the sector to the highest standard and that public funds are safeguarded and dispensed prudently in the interest of achieving value for money for the State; if each of the newly-established technological universities will be responsible for the unresolved issues of each of the institutes in their respective makeups such as protected disclosures and legal issues and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38032/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

The Higher Education Authority (HEA) is an aegis body of the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science established under statute by the Higher Education Authority Act, 1971 and provision relating to its governance are set out in the Act. The Act also sets out the functions of the HEA including its function as the statutory funding authority for the universities, institutes of technology and a number of other designated institutions and provides for the financial monitoring of the designated higher education institutions by the HEA.

As provided for in the Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies 2016, the Department has an Oversight Agreement and a Performance Delivery Agreement in place with the HEA. The Performance Delivery Agreement sets out the purpose and scope of the agreement and defines the roles for both organisations. A Financial Accountability Framework in place between the Department and the HEA is also appended to the Performance Delivery Agreement, setting out the structures in place with regard to the funding advanced to the HEA for its own operations and for disbursement to the HEIs under its remit. The Oversight Agreement is a written statement between the Department and the HEA which defines the terms of the HEA’s relationship with the Department. It outlines the legal framework and environment within which the HEA operates, its purpose and responsibilities, the requirement for compliance with the Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies and arrangements for monitoring and reporting. Work is currently underway to develop the Oversight Agreement and PDA between the Department and the HEA for 2021.

Under the current statutory framework, Institutes of Technology are independent and autonomous bodies and on that basis are responsible for the conduct of their own day-to-day affairs, including the allocation of their income both from public and private sources. The performance of this role is subject to detailed governance, oversight and accountability requirements, including for example, the requirements of the Public Financial Procedures and the Code of Governance for Institutes of Technology, which includes requirements in respect of all expenditure by Institutes.

In addition, all higher education institutions are required to submit Annual Accounts, which are subject to audit by the Comptroller & Auditor General, and an Annual Governance Statement to the HEA that includes confirmation of adherence to Codes of Conduct for Governing Body members and Employees, compliance with appropriate pay policies and other governance and accountability issues.

With regard to newly-established Technological Universities (TU), Section 37 of the Technological Universities Act 2018 (No. 3 of 2018) provides that on the appointed day of establishment of a TU, all functions that immediately before the appointed day were vested by, or under any enactment, in the applicant institutes which were dissolved on foot of the TU establishment, shall stand transferred to the technological university. Therefore any unresolved matters pertaining to an Institute prior to designation as a TU will rest with the new TU entity to address.

Tribunals of Inquiry

Questions (652)

John McGuinness

Question:

652. Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science the number of tribunals, inquiries or investigations being undertaken currently by his Department; the number that are in the process of being set up; the number in which the terms of reference are not complete or not agreed; the cost of all to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38042/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

There are no tribunals, enquires or investigations being undertaken currently or in the process of being set up by this Department. There are none in which terms of reference are not complete or agreed and no costs arise in this regard.

Education Data

Questions (653, 672)

Alan Dillon

Question:

653. Deputy Alan Dillon asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science the third level CPD accredited courses available in counties Mayo, Galway and Roscommon; and the number in areas such as biomedical, electrical engineering, software and digital skills. [38100/20]

View answer

Alan Dillon

Question:

672. Deputy Alan Dillon asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science the third level CPD accredited courses available in counties Mayo, Galway and Roscommon; the number in areas such as biomedical and electrical engineering, software and digital skills; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38497/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 653 and 672 together.

A list of higher education courses in NUIG and GMIT in the fields specified by the Deputy is attached. Further education courses can be searched by location and field on https://www.fetchcourses.ie/ and a searchable register of all qualifications recognised under the national framework of qualifications (NFQ) can be found at https://irq.ie/.

My Department does not have a role in determining whether a given course counts as CPD or not – this is determined by employers or by professional regulatory bodies. In addition, many CPD courses do not lead to a qualification on the NFQ and are not accredited by QQI or a higher education institution. They are not provided by further or higher education institutions, and not regulated by my Department.

Doc

Technological Universities

Questions (654)

Jennifer Carroll MacNeill

Question:

654. Deputy Jennifer Carroll MacNeill asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science the status of TU designation applications; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38101/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

The establishment of technological universities (TUs) is an important part of the Government’s higher education policy as underscored by the Programme for Government 2020.

Under the statutory framework detailed in the Technological Universities Act 2018, it is a matter, in the first instance, for the relevant Institutes of Technology participating in a technological university development consortium to progress their plans and, when ready, to make an application seeking a Ministerial order to be subsequently approved by both Houses of the Oireachtas establishing a TU, subject to jointly meeting the eligibility criteria prescribed in the 2018 Act.

The consortium comprising Athlone Institute of Technology and Limerick Institute of Technology submitted their application on 20 November, the third such application made under the 2018 Act following those by TU Dublin and Munster TU development consortia in 2018 and 2019, respectively.

In addition, my Department understands the following to be the position in relation to the other two consortia currently pursuing TU designation:-

- The Connacht Ulster Alliance (CUA) consortium, comprising Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, Institute of Technology Sligo and Letterkenny Institute of Technology, is planning, subject to meeting the eligibility criteria, to submit their application by the end of this year.

- The Technological University for the South East of Ireland (TUSEI) comprising Institute of Technology Carlow and Waterford Institute of Technology has appointed a new programme executive director to finalise and submit their application by the end of April 2021.

On 7 October I announced the first tranche of funding under a new Transformation Fund overseen and administered by the Higher Education Authority to assist in the creation and development of technological universities. The allocations are detailed in the table under. In total Exchequer funding under the Fund will comprise €90 million in the period to 2023.

Table: Exchequer funding allocations, 1st Sept 2020 – 31st Aug 2021 (€ million )

Project

Allocation 1 Sept 2020 – 31 August 2021

Payable Q4 2020

Payable Q1 2021

AIT-LIT

€5.00m

€4.33m

€0.67m

CUA (GMIT/IT Sligo/LYIT)

€5.70m

€4.93m

€0.77m

DkIT

€0.76m

€0.66m

€0.10m

IADT

€0.10m

€0.10m

MTU (CIT/IT Tralee)

€8.25m

€7.14m

€1.11m

TU Dublin

€7.25m

€6.27m

€0.98m

TUSEI (WIT/IT Carlow)

€5.10m

€4.41m

€0.69m

IReL: TU Dublin, 2020

€1.20m

€1.20m

EduCampus: TU Dublin, 2020

€0.85m

€0.85m

HEA Monitoring/Resourcing

€0.12m

€0.12m

Total

€34.33m

€30.00m

€4.32m

Further and Higher Education

Questions (655)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

655. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science if he has discussed the interim list of eligible providers with the Minister for Justice; and his views on the way in which the list relates to further and higher education. [38118/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

The Interim List of Eligible Programmes (ILEP) was introduced as part of a series of reforms to the student immigration system for international education in line with the Government decision of 19 May 2015. These reforms have been designed to:

- tackle abuse of the immigration regime,

- tackle abuse of the labour market,

- improve the overall quality of offering to international students,

- improve protection for learners,

- safeguard the strong international reputation of high-quality Irish education providers in line with the goals of Ireland’s international education strategy.

As part of these reforms all Higher Education Institutions and English language education providers wishing to recruit non-EEA students are required to be listed on the ILEP. This list details the education programmes considered to justify the granting of permission to non-EEA students to live and work in Ireland.

The ILEP was introduced in January 2016 and is administered by the Department of Justice in association with my Department. Officials of both Departments engage on a regular basis to assess the eligibility of applicants to the ILEP in addition to reviewing and updating its governing criteria and conditions.

Student Universal Support Ireland

Questions (656)

John Paul Phelan

Question:

656. Deputy John Paul Phelan asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science the number of persons who have availed of SUSI grants in 2020; the percentage this is in relation to the student population at large; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38130/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

It is anticipated that the number of students who will avail of the SUSI grant for the 2020/21 academic year is circa 70,700.

Statistics in relation the student population for the 2020/21 academic year is not available at this time.

Student Universal Support Ireland

Questions (657, 681, 682, 687, 688)

John Paul Phelan

Question:

657. Deputy John Paul Phelan asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science his plans to reform the SUSI support scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38131/20]

View answer

Gary Gannon

Question:

681. Deputy Gary Gannon asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science the scale of the review of SUSI scheduled to take place; the key areas of reform; the timeline of the process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38869/20]

View answer

Gary Gannon

Question:

682. Deputy Gary Gannon asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science if recipients of the SUSI grant as well as those that were deemed illegible for the grant will be engaged in the SUSI review; if so, the extent to their involvement in the review; and the method under which this engagement will take place. [38870/20]

View answer

Holly Cairns

Question:

687. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science the steps he is taking to ensure that student perspectives and experiences will feature in the full-scale review of SUSI; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38880/20]

View answer

Holly Cairns

Question:

688. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science if the full-scale review of SUSI will include engagement with the Department of Social Protection to review the back to education allowance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38881/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 657, 681, 682, 687 and 688 together.

The principal support provided by the Department in financial terms is the student grant scheme. Under the terms of the scheme, grant assistance is awarded to students attending an approved course in an approved institution who meet the prescribed conditions of funding, including those relating to nationality, residency, previous academic attainment and means.

I want to look strategically at a wide range of issues related to the Student Grant Scheme, administered by SUSI, and that is why I recently announced plans to review the scheme. It is intended that the Review will commence before the end of 2020 and will report in Summer 2021.

Stakeholders will be consulted as part of the Review process. I intend to invite contributions from stakeholders in the student grant system via a formal submission process. These submissions will be considered in the context of the parameters of the Programme for Government commitments, whilst recognising that the scheme operates in the context of competing educational priorities and limited public funding. The aim of the student grant scheme is to make a contribution to the cost of going to college; covering the full cost has never been a feasible option.

The Review will focus on:

- Assessing the impact of COVID-19 on the Student Grant Scheme.

- Review of eligibility and adjacency rates.

- Examining the future role of SUSI in supporting different forms of provision in line with national priorities, including postgraduate studies.

From September 2010, as announced in the Budget, all new applicants who are in receipt of the Back to Education Allowance (BTEA), and VTOS allowances for those pursuing PLC courses, are ineligible for student maintenance grants.

The decision was taken to discontinue the practice of allowing students progressing to a new course to hold both the BTEA and a student maintenance grant simultaneously as this represents a duplication of income support payments. This measure was recommended in the Report of the Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programmes.

However, the cost of the student contribution and any fees payable to colleges for the students concerned is met for these students by the Exchequer under the Student Grant Scheme, subject to the means test and other grant eligibility requirements. A student may apply to have eligibility for same assessed by the centralised student grant awarding authority SUSI (Student Universal Support Ireland) by submitting an online grant application via www.susi.ie.

Students in third-level institutions experiencing exceptional financial need can apply for support under the Student Assistance Fund. This Fund assists students, in a sensitive and compassionate manner, who might otherwise be unable to continue their third level studies due to their financial circumstances. Details of this fund are available from the Access Office in the institution attended. This fund is administered on a confidential, discretionary basis.

In addition, tax relief at the standard rate of tax may also be available in respect of tuition fees paid for approved courses at approved colleges of higher education. Further information on this tax relief is available from a student's local Tax Office or from the Revenue Commissioners website, www.revenue.ie.

Third Level Staff

Questions (658, 659, 660)

Catherine Connolly

Question:

658. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science the number of persons by gender and Department on contracts of indefinite duration at NUIG in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38135/20]

View answer

Catherine Connolly

Question:

659. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science the number of persons by gender and Department on contracts of indefinite duration which includes payments for related academic duties at NUIG in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38136/20]

View answer

Catherine Connolly

Question:

660. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science the number of persons by gender and Department on contracts of indefinite duration which do not include payments for related academic duties at NUIG in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38137/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 658 to 660, inclusive, together.

The information requested by the Deputy is not held by my Department.

NUIG is an autonomous institution within the meaning of the Universities Act 1997. Under this legislation universities are administratively independent and are entitled to regulate their own internal administrative processes. Neither I nor my Department have a role in issuing of contracts to university staff, and therefore information on these contracts is held by NUIG itself, not by my Department.