Third Level Staff

Questions (661)

Catherine Connolly

Question:

661. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science if his attention has been drawn to the use of contracts of indefinite duration at third level institutions and the use of such contracts with unpaid related academic duties; his views on this practice; the analysis, if any, undertaken by his Department in relation to the issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38138/20]

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Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

Higher education institutions (HEIs) are autonomous institutions within the meaning of the Universities Act 1997, Technological University’s Act 2018 and the Institute of Technology Acts 1992 -2006. Institutions have autonomy in relation to human resource policies, subject to compliance with Government policy in respect of employment numbers and pay policy, and are not under the direct control of the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science.

My Department has engaged with representative bodies of the HEIs and been advised that circumstances where a staff member may have in excess of two years’ service but not have a contract of indefinite duration, would include where there is an objective ground for the position being filled on a fixed term basis, that is, there is an ‘objective condition’ (per the Protection of Employees (Fixed-Term Work) Act 2003) such as arriving at a specific date, completing a specific task, or the occurrence of a specific event, that objectively justify the position being filled on a fixed term basis.

Typical examples would include replacement appointments for academic staff ‘seconded’ to School or institutional leadership roles; time bound philanthropic-funded activities; and appointments to new academic programmes, the continuance of which would depend upon student uptake.

Officials from the HEA, DFHERIS and DPER are currently engaged in discussions to agree revised principles for a new Higher Education Staffing Agreement which will update the current Employment Control Framework.

Employers in the higher education sector are also required to operate in accordance with the provisions of national industrial relations agreements. In the event that a lecturer has concerns regarding work and contract conditions in any third level institution, they can raise this with their employer in the first instance and they also have a variety of dispute resolution options open to them.

Third Level Fees

Questions (662)

Jim O'Callaghan

Question:

662. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science if he will extend the €250 rebate to third-level postgraduate students that have had their education moved online; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38139/20]

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Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

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 is online 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 EU full-time undergraduate and postgraduate students attending publicly funded Higher Education Institutions in recognition of the significant uncertainty and stress they have experienced due to Covid-19 pandemic.

The scheme will ensure students who avail of the SUSI grant will receive €250 top-up in their grant before Christmas, 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 will be made for the payment of the monies 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 the provision of additional student assistance including a doubling of the Student Assistance Fund and an additional 3m for student wellbeing initiatives in 2020.

Third Level Staff

Questions (663)

Catherine Connolly

Question:

663. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science further to Parliamentary Question No. 177 of 11 November 2020, if he and or the HEA have had communication from the governing body of the University of Limerick in relation to the report and the issues arising therein; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38141/20]

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Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

As outlined in my response of the 11th November, the report referred to by the Deputy was undertaken by the University of Limerick (UL) in the context of its legislative autonomy to address and resolve issues that arise within the university.

The Department understands that the report referred to was initiated by UL as part of its investigation into a protected disclosure received by it, consistent with the processes in place within the university for dealing with such matters.

I can confirm that my Department has not received any communication from the Governing Body of UL in relation to the report, however, the university has advised that a copy of the outcomes of the review will be shared with the Higher Education Authority in due course.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

Questions (664, 671)

Rose Conway-Walsh

Question:

664. Deputy Rose Conway-Walsh asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science the number of apprenticeships that have been furloughed; the number that have been made redundant as a result of Covid-19; if the introduction of an incentivisation scheme has been considered to encourage firms to take apprentices back on that have been laid-off or furloughed in the form of a return and retain scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38166/20]

View answer

Alan Dillon

Question:

671. Deputy Alan Dillon asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science the number of businesses in counties Mayo, Roscommon and Galway that have availed of the apprenticeship incentivisation scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38496/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 664 and 671 together.

There are 49 apprentices currently recorded as being redundant due to COVID-19, another 111 are recorded as being on temporary lay-off. Apprentices are primarily employees and, in common with other employees, are eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) where they meet the terms of the scheme, including for periods of temporary lay-off. Where an apprentice has been made redundant the relevant Authorised Officer works to support the apprentice, including seeking alternative employment.

Employers are eligible to apply for Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme (TWSS) for apprentices in their employment and 117 apprentices are known to have their employment supported through the TWSS at the current time.

The Apprenticeship Incentivisation Scheme (AIS) was initially funded under the July Stimulus programme and has been extended to mid-2021. It provides an employer grant of €3,000 for each new apprentice registered between 1st March 2020 and end June 2021. €2,000 of the grant is paid to the employer once the apprentice is registered, and a further €1,000 is paid after one year if the apprentice is still in employment at that time.

The impact of Covid-19 on businesses has resulted in a decrease of approximately 24% in new apprentice registrations for the year to end October (from 5,173 in 2019 to 3,952 in 2020). The introduction of the AIS has supported the recovery of apprentice registrations with September and October showing significant recovery compared to prior months, with October registrations (196) comparable to those of the prior year.

As of the 18th November, 522 employers have had their applications for the scheme approved in respect of 654 apprentice registrations to a value of €1.308m. 63 businesses have availed of the scheme in Galway, 16 in Mayo and 14 in Roscommon.

Further and Higher Education

Questions (665)

Paul Kehoe

Question:

665. Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science the status of the uptake of additional further and higher education and training places funded in the July stimulus package by programme and region; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38243/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

The information requested by the Deputy is currently being compiled. I will arrange for an early response to issue directly to the Deputy.

Ministerial Meetings

Questions (666)

Paul Kehoe

Question:

666. Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science the way in which he plans to improve all island research and education; the meetings he has had with his counterpart in Northern Ireland in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38244/20]

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Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

I had a video-conference meeting with the Northern Ireland Minister for the Economy last month, and while it was mainly introductory, we both acknowledged the importance of the research and innovation agenda for the continued economic development to the island of Ireland. Through Universities Ireland, I am working closely with the Presidents and Vice-chancellors of universities, both North and South, with a view to identifying strong and sustainable projects, which may provide the basis for joint actions by Minister Dodds and myself.

In addition, Science Foundation Ireland continues to progress specific proposal for the development of an All-island Research Centres, and they are currently engaged in detailed discussions on both side of the Border on this matter.

Student Universal Support Ireland

Questions (667)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

667. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science if a person (details supplied) is entitled to the SUSI special grant rate as they have been previously; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38340/20]

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Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

As part of a comprehensive customer service and communications strategy provided by Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI), to ensure that all necessary avenues are open to applicants to receive the information they need, a dedicated email and phone line service is provided by SUSI for Oireachtas members. This was established to meet an identified need for applicants who choose to engage the assistance of their public representatives in making enquiries about their grant applications.This service, which was set up at the behest of Oireachtas members, complements the established channels provided by SUSI which include online application tracking, a dedicated website, a telephone helpdesk, email and social media, including Facebook and Twitter. Enquiries may be emailed direct to SUSI at oireachtas@susi.ie. Staff in SUSI are responding to email queries within a matter of days.

Under the terms of the student grant scheme, grant assistance is awarded to students on full-time courses who meet the prescribed conditions of funding including those which relate to nationality, residency, approved course, previous academic attainment and means.

The decision on eligibility for a student grant is a matter in the first instance for the grant awarding authority, Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI).

To be eligible for the Special Rate of grant, an applicant's total reckonable income must not exceed €24,500 and must include on the 31st December of the year prior to their application, one of the eligible payments as provided for in Schedule 2 of the Student Grant Scheme 2020. A party to the appeal must hold combined periods of Jobseeker's Allowance and Jobseeker's Benefit and other eligible payments for purposes of meeting the prescribed period of 391 days as determined by the Department of Employment Affairs & Social Protection.

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. The application for the student in the details supplied was reassessed under one of these reviews for the 2020/21 academic year. When assessing an applicant’s eligibility for the Special Rate of grant it was determined that while there was an eligible payment (Jobseeker’s Allowance) on the 31st December 2019, the duration of the payment did not meet the prescribed period of 391 days as determined by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection.

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.

Apart from the Student Grant Scheme, 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. Information on the fund is available through the Access Office in the third level institution attended.

Student Universal Support Ireland

Questions (668)

Seán Canney

Question:

668. Deputy Seán Canney asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science if his attention has been drawn to a problem that has arisen for veterinary students studying in Poland trying to access SUSI grants for the final one and a half years of their degree course; if his attention has been further drawn to the fact that the five and a half year course is a degree programme comprised of 330 ECTS and is being treated as if it was an integrated masters course by SUSI; if his attention has been further drawn to the fact is that the current interpretation by SUSI, which deems the first four years of the course as undergraduate and the final one and a half years as masters is placing Irish students studying in Poland at a disadvantage compared to those studying for a veterinary degree in Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38348/20]

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Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) is the state agency with statutory responsibility for the quality assurance of further and higher education and training in Ireland. QQI is responsible for maintaining the National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ). The NFQ is a system of ten levels which aims to make the qualifications system in Ireland easier to understand, thus facilitating the recognition of Irish qualifications both at home and abroad. QQI also hosts the Irish centre of the European Network of Information Centres / National Academic Recognition Information Centre (ENIC-NARIC). This service comprises a network of centres that facilitates the recognition of academic qualifications throughout Europe and further afield including Australia. Further details are available at: www.qualrec.ie

A course placed at Level 8 (or equivalent) on the NFQ is undergraduate level. A course placed at Level 9 (or equivalent) on the NFQ is postgraduate level.

SUSI grant funding is available for approved undergraduate courses in approved higher education institutions within the EU. No maintenance funding is available for postgraduate courses outside of Ireland.

Some high end courses abroad have an integrated undergraduate and postgraduate element. For these courses, SUSI may issue maintenance grants during the undergraduate element of the course but will not provide any support for the postgraduate element. Third level institutions are autonomous bodies and as such have responsibility for their own academic affairs, including issues relating to the composition and content of courses.

Further details of the funding available for integrated masters’ courses within the EU, is available on the SUSI website where students can determine their eligibility for grant support prior to attending a course: https://susi.ie/student-studying-outside-the-state/approved-institutionscourses-for-students-studying-outside-the-state/

In line with the Programme for Government, I am launching a Review of the SUSI scheme. This review will focus on:

- Assessing the impact of Covid on the SUSI 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 and part-time provision.

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, and it is intended that the future direction of the SUSI scheme will be guided by the outcome of the Review.

National Training Fund

Questions (669)

Rose Conway-Walsh

Question:

669. Deputy Rose Conway-Walsh asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science if the transfer of responsibility for the national training fund to his Department has been completed; when he plans to publish the expenditure report in this regard for 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38357/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

I can confirm that responsibility for the National Training Fund (NTF) under the National Training Fund Act 2000 now lies with my Department. This took effect following the transfer of functions order that was approved by Government on 20 October 2020.

The National Training Fund Expenditure Report is normally published mid year based on annual expenditure allocations and policy developments. In 2020, due largely to the Covid-19 pandemic, there have been revisions to expenditure allocations and spending priorities throughout the year. An expenditure report incorporating the revised allocations and target outputs in 2020 will be published in the near future.

Apprenticeship Programmes

Question No. 671 answered with Question No. 664.

Question No. 672 answered with Question No. 653.

Questions (670)

Verona Murphy

Question:

670. Deputy Verona Murphy asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science the reason for the delays many persons are experiencing between apprentice phases resulting in four year apprenticeships taking in excess of five years to complete in many instances; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38439/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

As of end October 2020, there were 18,800 apprentices registered over 55 apprenticeship programmes. Apprenticeships are between 2 and 4 years in duration leading to qualifications at level 5-10 of the National Framework of Qualifications with a range of arrangements to deliver off-the-job training. These arrangements range from one day a week off-the-job for international financial services apprentices up to a 35 week off-the-job placement for phase 4 aviation apprenticeships.

In March of this year, off-the-job training for number of apprenticeship programmes moved fully online or were modified to allow for greater flexibility between on-the-job and off-the-job elements of the programmes.

Unfortunately, it was not possible to deliver this flexibility in programme provision or assessment in the practical elements of craft apprenticeships (Phases 2,4 and 6) due to the need to access workshops and equipment together with the simultaneous closure of the construction sector. The closure of the education and training sector to face to face delivery of training between March and September 2020 resulted in the immediate loss of approximately 2,200 training places on phase 4 & 6 craft apprenticeships (April intake) and in the region of 2,000 phase 2 training places over the period of the closure.

In addition to the immediate loss of places, the return to face to face training in September has been subject to strict Covid-19 measures which has resulted in the reduction of available places.

The following measures have been taken to ameliorate the ongoing impacts of the Covid-19 measures on craft apprentices:-

- An alternative assessment approach was delivered for the theory assessments for up to 2,500 craft apprentices who had been close to finishing their phase of training at the time of the shutdown in March. Outstanding practical assessments were prioritised for completion in September 2020, with over 1,000 apprentices completing practical assessments and their phase of training.

- Craft apprentices who have had their off-the-job training interrupted in March 2020 were prioritised for a return to training from 31 August (ETB training centres) and from 10 September (Institutes of Technology and TU Dublin).

- Additional trainer posts have been sanctioned on a temporary basis where ETBs have identified a need for additional staff to deliver off-the-job training within Covid-19 guidelines.

- €12m has been provided in Budget 2021 to support additional places which will mitigate against the effect of smaller apprenticeship class sizes and catch up on lost provision in spring and summer 2020.

- SOLAS is currently engaging with Further and Higher Education delivery partners to examine additional options to maximise delivery of craft apprenticeship having regard to the ongoing impact of Covid-19. This includes looking at practical impacts of online delivery and also how much of the theory for craft can be delivered online.

- The HEA and SOLAS are also engaging further in relation to the curricula to see what parts can be delivered online and are working with the sector to see which elements of craft apprenticeship might be amenable to blended learning.

Question No. 671 answered with Question No. 664.
Question No. 672 answered with Question No. 653.

Higher Education Institutions

Questions (673)

Holly Cairns

Question:

673. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science if his attention has been drawn to a series (details supplied) on the working conditions in the higher level education sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38530/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

Universities are autonomous institutions within the meaning of the Universities Act 1997, Technological University’s Act 2018 and the Institute of Technology Acts 1992 -2006. Institutions have autonomy in relation to human resource policies, subject to compliance with Government policy in respect of employment numbers and pay policy, and are not under the direct control of the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science.

My Department has engaged with representative bodies of the Higher Education Institutes (HEIs) and been advised that there are a number of factors that would lead HEIs to engage the services of temporary or casual teaching staff. These may include new activities, growth in student numbers, diverse sources of funding, or philanthropic activity.

Circumstances where a staff member may have in excess of two years’ service but not have a CID, would include where there is an objective ground for the position being filled on a fixed term basis, that is, there is an ‘objective condition’ (per the Protection of Employees (Fixed-Term Work) Act 2003) such as arriving at a specific date, completing a specific task, or the occurrence of a specific event, that objectively justify the position being filled on a fixed term basis.

Typical examples would include replacement appointments for academic staff ‘seconded’ to School or institutional leadership roles; time bound philanthropic-funded activities; and appointments to new academic programmes, the continuance of which would depend upon student uptake.

Officials from the HEA, DFHERIS and DPER are currently engaged in discussions to agree revised principles for a new Higher Education Staffing Agreement which will update the current Employment Control Framework. The Department is supporting the IUA and THEA in the development of the Researcher Career Development Framework which aims to provide consistency in researcher classification and salary structure, including supporting HR practices in research career management. The Framework is close to finalisation and is an important initiative in tackling impediments to career progression and mobility of trained researchers.

Employers in the higher education sector are also required to operate in accordance with the provisions of national industrial relations agreements. In the event that a lecturer has concerns regarding work and contract conditions in any third level institution, they can raise this with their employer in the first instance and they also have a variety of dispute resolution options open to them.

Third Level Staff

Questions (674)

Holly Cairns

Question:

674. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science if his attention has been drawn to the 440 academic staff in universities and institutes of technology that were in continuous employment in excess of two years but not on a contract of indefinite duration; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38531/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

Universities are autonomous institutions within the meaning of the Universities Act 1997, Technological University’s Act 2018 and the Institute of Technology Acts 1992 -2006. Institutions have autonomy in relation to human resource policies, subject to compliance with Government policy in respect of employment numbers and pay policy, and are not under the direct control of the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science.

My Department has engaged with representative bodies of the Higher Education Institutes (HEIs) and been advised that there are a number of factors that would lead HEIs to engage the services of temporary or casual teaching staff. These may include new activities, growth in student numbers, diverse sources of funding, or philanthropic activity.

Circumstances where a staff member may have in excess of two years’ service but not have a CID, would include where there is an objective ground for the position being filled on a fixed term basis, that is, there is an ‘objective condition’ (per the Protection of Employees (Fixed-Term Work) Act 2003) such as arriving at a specific date, completing a specific task, or the occurrence of a specific event, that objectively justify the position being filled on a fixed term basis.

Typical examples would include replacement appointments for academic staff ‘seconded’ to School or institutional leadership roles; time bound philanthropic-funded activities; and appointments to new academic programmes, the continuance of which would depend upon student uptake.

Officials from the HEA, DFHERIS and DPER are currently engaged in discussions to agree revised principles for a new Higher Education Staffing Agreement which will update the current Employment Control Framework. The Department is supporting the IUA and THEA in the development of the Researcher Career Development Framework which aims to provide consistency in researcher classification and salary structure, including supporting HR practices in research career management. The Framework is close to finalisation and is an important initiative in tackling impediments to career progression and mobility of trained researchers.

Employers in the higher education sector are also required to operate in accordance with the provisions of national industrial relations agreements. In the event that a lecturer has concerns regarding work and contract conditions in any third level institution, they can raise this with their employer in the first instance and they also have a variety of dispute resolution options open to them.

Third Level Staff

Questions (675)

Holly Cairns

Question:

675. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science if his attention has been drawn to the 11,200 lecturers working on a temporary or casual basis in recent years across universities and institutes of technology; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38532/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

Universities are autonomous institutions within the meaning of the Universities Act 1997, Technological University’s Act 2018 and the Institute of Technology Acts 1992 -2006. Institutions have autonomy in relation to human resource policies, subject to compliance with Government policy in respect of employment numbers and pay policy, and are not under the direct control of the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science.

My Department has engaged with representative bodies of the Higher Education Institutes (HEIs) and been advised that there are a number of factors that would lead HEIs to engage the services of temporary or casual teaching staff. These may include new activities, growth in student numbers, diverse sources of funding, or philanthropic activity.

Circumstances where a staff member may have in excess of two years’ service but not have a CID, would include where there is an objective ground for the position being filled on a fixed term basis, that is, there is an ‘objective condition’ (per the Protection of Employees (Fixed-Term Work) Act 2003) such as arriving at a specific date, completing a specific task, or the occurrence of a specific event, that objectively justify the position being filled on a fixed term basis.

Typical examples would include replacement appointments for academic staff ‘seconded’ to School or institutional leadership roles; time bound philanthropic-funded activities; and appointments to new academic programmes, the continuance of which would depend upon student uptake.

Officials from the HEA, DFHERIS and DPER are currently engaged in discussions to agree revised principles for a new Higher Education Staffing Agreement which will update the current Employment Control Framework. The Department is supporting the IUA and THEA in the development of the Researcher Career Development Framework which aims to provide consistency in researcher classification and salary structure, including supporting HR practices in research career management. The Framework is close to finalisation and is an important initiative in tackling impediments to career progression and mobility of trained researchers.

Employers in the higher education sector are also required to operate in accordance with the provisions of national industrial relations agreements. In the event that a lecturer has concerns regarding work and contract conditions in any third level institution, they can raise this with their employer in the first instance and they also have a variety of dispute resolution options open to them.