Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

Questions (657)

Rose Conway-Walsh

Question:

657. Deputy Rose Conway-Walsh asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science if students who have already paid their fees for the 2020-2021 academic year will effectively be unable to access the €250 Covid support until September 2021; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9540/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

In recognition of the challenges facing full time third level students, financial assistance will be provided in academic year 2020/21 to all students who avail of SUSI grants and to all EU full-time undergraduate and postgraduate students attending publicly funded Higher Education Institutions in the state.

The scheme will ensure students:

- Who avail of the SUSI grant will receive €250 top-up in their grant;

- Students who do not avail of the grant but attend publicly funded Higher Education Institutions in the state can reduce by €250 any outstanding student 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 at the discretion of institutions.

The latter two options, as outlined above, are designed to ensure students who are not in receipt of SUSI benefit from the measure. It is also the intention that these address circumstances where students are in final year, have paid their contribution fee and may not be on campus.

A key administrative feature of the fund is that it is being implemented with the assistance of publicly funded institutions in the State under the remit of my Department and that the institution determines the students status as a full time student.

Higher education providers have completed or are in the process of completing the allocation to students. The Department has requested that institutions provide any outstanding credits in a timely manner before 28 February 2021. In a small number of cases where a credit cannot be applied a payment may be facilitated at the discretion of the institution.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

Questions (658)

Rose Conway-Walsh

Question:

658. Deputy Rose Conway-Walsh asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science if PhD students who have scholarships that cover their fees will be unable to access €250 Covid support until they graduate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9541/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

In recognition of the challenges facing full time third level students, financial assistance will be provided in academic year 2020/21 to all students who avail of SUSI grants and to all EU full-time undergraduate and postgraduate students attending publicly funded Higher Education Institutions in the state.

The scheme will ensure students;

- Who avail of the SUSI grant will receive €250 top-up in their grant;

- Students who do not avail of the grant but attend publicly funded Higher Education Institutions in the state can reduce by €250 any outstanding student 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 at the discretion of institutions.

The latter two options, as outlined above, are designed to ensure students who are not in receipt of SUSI benefit from the measure. It is also the intention that these address circumstances where students are in final year, have paid their contribution fee and may not be on campus.

A key administrative feature of the fund is that it is being implemented with the assistance of publicly funded institutions in the State under the remit of my Department and that the institution determines the students status as a full time student.

Higher education providers have completed or are in the process of completing the allocation to students. The Department has requested that institutions provide any outstanding credits in a timely manner before 28 February 2021. In a small number of cases where a credit cannot be applied a payment may be facilitated at the discretion of the institution.

Third Level Admissions

Questions (659)

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire

Question:

659. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science if assurances will be provided that any potential delay in the issuing of the 2021 A level results will not disadvantage students in Northern Ireland from accessing third-level places here; and the ongoing engagement between the two jurisdictions on these issues. [9547/21]

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Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

The CAO process applications for undergraduate, and some postgraduate, courses on behalf of the Higher Education Institutions (HEIs). Decisions on admissions, including deadlines for receipt of school leaving exam results, are made by the HEIs who then instruct the CAO in this matter.

My officials are meeting regularly with representatives from the further and higher education sectors to discuss issues relating to entry to further and higher education in 2021, including issues surrounding cross-border student mobility. I will encourage higher education institutions in Ireland to exercise the required flexibility to ensure that any delays in the publication of A Level results does not create a difficulty for NI students.

Mobility of Northern Irish students to Irish HEIs is very important for me, and in this regard, the Deputy should note that I have amended the Student Support Act 2011 to allow the payment of SUSI grants to eligible NI students, in addition to ensuring that they will maintain access to existing fee arrangements.

Third Level Examinations

Questions (660, 662)

Ruairí Ó Murchú

Question:

660. Deputy Ruairí Ó Murchú asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science his engagements with Dundalk Institute of Technology regarding exam results not being delivered to students; the steps he has taken to resolve the matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9571/21]

View answer

Matt Carthy

Question:

662. Deputy Matt Carthy asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science if it will be ensured that the issues that have resulted in students at Dundalk Institute of Technology not receiving exam results will be resolved as a matter of urgency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9578/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 660 and 662 together.

Dundalk Institute of Technology is an autonomous higher education institution in relation to academic issues. I was glad to be able to engage with students on this matter and I am pleased that my Department understands that following recent discussions between staff and management at the Institute, on 16 February the Teachers’ Union of Ireland wrote to its members to advise of the immediate suspension of action affecting students’ exam results. It is further understood that academic staff were requested by heads of schools to enter exam data into the student records system before close of business on 18 February. Exam boards are expected to take place this week with a view to results being made available to students later in the week.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

Question No. 662 answered with Question No. 660.

Questions (661)

Rose Conway-Walsh

Question:

661. Deputy Rose Conway-Walsh asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science if his Department has completed its consultation with the Department of Finance and the necessary arrangements have been put in place to ensure there are no tax implications, particularly in terms of tax relief, for the recipients of the €250 support or their families; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9575/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

As the Deputy will appreciate, while the operation of support measures for third level students is a function of this Department, tax matters are a function of the Revenue Commissioners.

The scheme ensures students:

- Who avail of the Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI) grant, including students studying abroad, will receive €250 top-up in their grant; The €250 grant is available automatically to everyone in full time third level education, including PLC courses, who avails of SUSI supports. Nearly 72,000 students received their top-up before Christmas. In some cases the payment will be made to registered students early this year, for example, if bank details were not submitted in time or if college registration is yet to be confirmed. There is no need to apply for it, and SUSI will be in touch with students.

- Students who do not avail of the grant but attend publicly funded Higher Education Institutions under the aegis of the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science in the state can reduce by €250 any outstanding contribution fee payments or receive a €250 credit note for their institution; There is no need for students to apply for this funding and it is the intention that all students will have been contacted by their institution before the end of February.

- In a small number of cases, alternative arrangements will be made for the payment of the monies to students.

SUSI payments, including this once-off additional €250 payment, are specifically exempt from tax.

The Revenue Commissioners have advised the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science that the non-SUSI credit/payment is income for tax purposes but would not give rise to a tax liability for the majority of full-time students.

The Covid Student Assistance Fund will provide financial assistance to all eligible full time third level students in recognition in recognition of the significant upheaval they have experienced due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the options are designed to ensure students who are not in receipt of SUSI will benefit from the measure.

This measure 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 a €15 million technology fund for devices for students in further and higher education to assist with difficulties in accessing technology to facilitate their course work in a blended capacity. These supports are being distributed through the colleges and further education providers.

Question No. 662 answered with Question No. 660.

Ministerial Advisers

Questions (663)

Seán Sherlock

Question:

663. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science the names and contact details for each special adviser requested for appointment by him, in tabular form. [9598/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

The information requested is in the table.

NAME

TITLE

ADDRESS

Joanne Lonergan

Special Adviser

Department of Further & Higher Education, Research Innovation & Science, Marlborough Street, Dublin 1. D01 RC96. Telephone: 01 8896400

Sarah Bardon

Special Adviser

Department of Further & Higher Education, Research Innovation & Science, Marlborough Street, Dublin 1. D01 RC96. Telephone: 01 8896400

Departmental Staff

Questions (664)

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

664. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science the number of staff employed in his Department by gender and by civil service salary scale, in tabular form. [9663/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

The requested information is set out in the table. Please note that full details of civil service salary scales are available at https://www.gov.ie/en/circular/39b2c-circular-12-2020-application-of-1st-of-october-2020-pay-adjustments/.

Staff

Departmental Reviews

Questions (665)

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

665. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science the current number of live studies, reviews and research projects undertaken or commissioned by him; and the date by which each study, review and research project is scheduled to be completed, in tabular form. [9685/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

Education Data

Questions (666)

Rose Conway-Walsh

Question:

666. Deputy Rose Conway-Walsh asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science the breakdown of further education students who received each level of SUSI support, such as full maintenance grants, full fees, 50% fees and so on; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9751/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

In the academic year 2019/2020, SUSI processed 96,500 applications in total, and paid out 71,391 grants. Of this, 7,407 awards were made to PLC students .

For the academic year 2020/21, SUSI has processed a total of 100,900 applications and to date 73,693 grants have been paid, of which 6,601 were paid to PLC students.

Please also note that the data for 20/21 academic year is correct as at 12/2/2021, and may be subject to change as late applications are still being processed and the appeals process for 2020/21 is ongoing.

Please note that PLC fees are waived for SUSI grant holders.

A detailed breakdown of the number of students and the rates of grants awarded to them can be found in the tables.

2020

2019

Student Universal Support Ireland

Questions Nos. 668 to 670, inclusive, answered with Question No. 651.

Questions (667)

Rose Conway-Walsh

Question:

667. Deputy Rose Conway-Walsh asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science further to Parliamentary Question No. 556 of 15 September 2020, if the same figure will be provided for all academic years from 2015 to 2016; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9752/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

The data provided in the table is the breakdown for all Higher Education students who were in receipt of a grant for the 2015/2016, 2016/2017 and 2018/2019 academic years.

The data in relation to the number of third level full-time students enrolled in colleges for the 2019/20 academic year are currently not available from the Higher Education Authority.

Applications Paid 2015-19

Questions Nos. 668 to 670, inclusive, answered with Question No. 651.

Student Universal Support Ireland

Questions (671)

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

671. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science the number of persons who initially qualified for a SUSI grant in 2020 and subsequently had the grant withdrawn. [9828/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

The principal support provided by the Department in financial terms is the Student Grant Scheme. Under 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.

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

The application process generally opens in late March/early April. When students apply for grant support, the application is assessed and the student is notified of the decision in principle. This allows the student an opportunity to appeal a decision before a final decision is made. In a small number of cases, some students don’t subsequently qualify for grant support. I can confirm that 743 students were initially awarded grants but have since had the grants withdrawn by SUSI for the 2020/21 academic year as of 22/2/2021.

The withdrawal of an awarded SUSI grant may be due to a number of reasons, such as:

- An applicant registers for a different course to the course that was previously awarded e.g. the initial decision in principle was in respect of an approved course and the student subsequently attends a course that does not qualify for support;

- An applicant was initially assessed as qualifying for a fee grant only for a course within Ireland and is now attending a course overseas or a PLC course within the State where fee grants are not payable;

- New information from the applicant or college is received advising that the applicant is not progressing to the year of the course that the grant was awarded to; and

- Post Assessment Quality Reviews carried out on applications for the current academic year discover that a student does not qualify for support.

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.

Education Data

Questions (672)

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

672. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science if his attention has been drawn to an increase in the number of third-level students either opting to defer their year of studies or to drop out of college completely by comparison with previous years. [9829/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

My Department is acutely aware of the additional challenges faced by students as a result of Covid-19, and is conscious that this could have the potential to impact on progression rates. We are engaging regularly with the sector to understand how the student experience is being impacted as the academic year progresses.

My officials have spoken with representatives from the higher education sector regarding any changes to the deferral or non-progression rate among students in this year compared to previous years. Deferrals are granted at the discretion of the Higher Education Institutions and the sector has indicated that there was no significant increase or decrease in the number of deferrals in 2020 in comparison to previous years. Although a full analysis of the Semester 2 registration data has not yet been completed, there is no indication of any significant change in the non-progression rate in comparison to previous years. We will continue to liaise with stakeholders in this regard.

Departmental Correspondence

Questions (673)

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

673. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science if he has been contacted by a student or college representative who have expressed a concern regarding the mental health of students and young persons during the pandemic; the dates on which he received such correspondence; the persons or bodies the correspondence was received from; the nature of the correspondence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9830/21]

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Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

Since coming into office, I have received many representations from across the country regarding the health and well-being of our students. Some of those representations have student mental health as the primary topic, while many others express concerns regarding the subject together with other matters. My Department would require to undertake further analysis to answer the Deputy’s query therefore or perhaps the Deputy could provide some more specific information as to the correspondence he is referencing.

The support and wellbeing of our students is one of my priorities, particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the increased stress and pressure resulting from it.

In 2020, I secured a comprehensive package of financial support in the amount of €168m for the Higher Education and Further Education and Training sector to mitigate against the direct financial impact of COVID-19 on our Universities, institutions, colleges and students in 2020. This package includes additional funding of €3m to underpin wellbeing and mental health and student services in our higher education institutions (HEIs), and is in addition to the €2m that was allocated in Budget 2020. This funding is enabling institutions to enhance their student facing services, such as by employing additional student Counsellors and Assistant Psychologists.

The HEA wrote to all HEIs in 2020 setting each institutions funding allocation towards student support and mental health and wellbeing and the conditions attaching to the funding, including a request that the HEIs distribute it in support of specific student facing areas such as the recruitment of additional Student Counsellors, and implementation of the National Student Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Framework, which I launched last year.

This Framework is Ireland’s first ever national approach to address student mental health and suicide prevention. The Framework delivers on a commitment to develop national guidelines for the higher education institutions (HEIs) in relation to suicide risk and critical incident response, thereby helping to address any gaps which might exist in the prevention of suicide in higher education. The Framework additionally recognises the many challenges students face, and sets out ways in which institutions can support and respond through working proactively to maximise mental health and wellbeing.

The Framework provides very clear guidance to higher education institutions regarding implementation of good practices in responding to student mental health difficulties. The HEA has partnered with the HSE National Office for Suicide Prevention and Psychological Counsellors in Higher Education Ireland (PCHEI) in providing training in a specialist suicide assessment and management approach. Over 300 psychologists and counsellors across 26 higher education institutions are currently undertaking Collaborative Assessment and Management of Suicidality training, a first in world at this scale across a sector. The CAMS approach is supported by over 70 studies and given the origins of its development was a university mental health setting, it fits well in a higher education context. This is further support for student counselling services to meet the complex and challenging needs that present on campuses at an increasing rate in the past number of years. This also addresses Goal 5 in the Department of Health’s Connecting for Life – Ireland’s National Strategy to Reduce Suicide 2015-2020: "To ensure safe and high-quality services for people vulnerable to suicide." Together with the crisis text line 50808 that I launched in October 2020, I'm confident that capacity to respond to students experiencing high distress and mental health difficulties has been significantly improved over the past 6 months.

Funding has also helped develop the student counselling services across the Higher Education sector in many ways besides student counsellor resourcing. For example, some institutions have developed new roles of Assistant Psychologist, Student Support Officer and Mental Health Advisors for student mental health supports. Heads of Services have been appointed or further resourced.

I am very encouraged that the Framework and the additional funding has had immediate impact. The increased capacity has created a lot of activity in outreach to students: online support groups (anxiety support, mood management); open, drop in groups to support connection/reduce isolation and loneliness; groups specifically targeting international students, first year students and postgraduates. The additional funding has also supported a very significant increase in workshops being offered such as on resilience; managing fear/anxiety/uncertainty; grief and loss during the pandemic; motivation/staying engaged with college.

Third Level Costs

Questions (674)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

674. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science if the parents of a person (details supplied) can be reimbursed in view of their circumstances; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9933/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

I am conscious of the challenges faced by students regarding student accommodation this year due to both financial pressures, and the blended learning format of the 2020/21 academic year.

The Deputy will be aware that the university sector has been actively engaging with students on the issue of accommodation refunds. As a result of the decision to minimise on-site teaching, all universities have confirmed that students who opted to leave their university-owned student accommodation as a result of reduced on-campus activity will be offered refunds or rental credits. The processing of these refunds is a matter for the universities themselves, and any student who wishes to receive a refund for their on-campus accommodation should engage directly with their university’s accommodation office.

In the case of privately-owned student accommodation, I am urging providers to be flexible in finding solutions given the circumstances that students find themselves. There are, however, no powers available to me under the current legal framework to direct any particular course of action. Refund or cancellation policies in student accommodation should be set out in the license agreement signed at the beginning of the academic year. In the first instance students should engage with their accommodation provider to see if an arrangement can be reached. If this is not possible, students have access to the Dispute Resolution Services of the Residential Tenancies Board.

I am of course very conscious of the immediate impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on our students. In recognition of the challenges facing full time third level students, financial assistance is being provided in academic year 2020/21 to all students who avail of SUSI grants and to all EU full-time undergraduate and postgraduate students attending publicly funded Higher Education Institutions in the state.

Under this initiative students who avail of the SUSI grant have received a €250 top-up in their grant and students who do not avail of the grant but attend publicly funded Higher Education Institutions in the state can reduce by €250 any outstanding student contribution fee payments or receive a €250 credit note for their institution.

Additionally Budget 2021 provides further funding to enhance SUSI grant supports for post-grads and increase support for the PATH access initiative. In July I announced a range of additional student supports including a doubling of the Student Assistance Fund, and a €15 million technology fund for devices for students.

The combined impact of these supports and initiatives highlight the strength of the Government's commitment to supporting students in meeting the costs of third level education.

Education Policy

Questions (675, 676)

Holly Cairns

Question:

675. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science further to Question No. 139 of 4 February 2021, the status of the implementation of the recommendations in Framework for Consent in Higher Education Institutions: Safe, Respectful, Supportive and Positive - Ending Sexual Harassment in Irish Higher Education Institutions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9975/21]

View answer

Holly Cairns

Question:

676. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science further to Question No. 139 of 4 February 2021, the higher education institutions that have developed and published specific institutional action plans on tackling sexual violence and harassment in accordance with the guidelines in Framework for Consent in Higher Education Institutions: Safe, Respectful, Supportive and Positive - Ending Sexual Harassment in Irish Higher Education Institutions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9976/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 675 and 676 together.

In August 2020, I wrote to all publicly funded higher education institutions (HEIs) requesting that they develop institutional action plans on tackling sexual violence and harassment, and report to the Higher Education Authority (HEA) on their progress on the implementation of the Framework for Consent in HEIs.

Since then, the HEA’s Centre of Excellence for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion has been working with HEIs and the sectoral representative bodies to support implementation of the Framework for Consent. For instance, in the 2020/21 academic year, the HEA has supported the national, sectoral and local roll out of online consent training and online bystander intervention training, as well as the development of a national Anonymous Reporting Tool for issues of bullying, harassment, and sexual harassment.

In September 2020, the HEA requested a progress update from HEIs on the Framework for Consent to assess progress and enable benchmarking and sharing of good practice across the sector. These updates revealed that much progress has been made in implementing the framework to date. Across the HEIs, 63% of actions in the framework have been implemented or are in progress, with a further 31% in the planning phase.

Ahead of formal reporting on the Framework implementation in Autumn 2021, the HEIs are to submit to the HEA, by the end of March 2021, specific institutional action plans around tackling sexual harassment.

In addition, the HEIs Annual Governance Statements submitted to the HEA require a statement confirming that an institution has applied the institutional processes which will support achievement of the objectives of the Framework for Consent.

In order to create a robust evidence base for further policy decisions in relation to tackling sexual violence and harassment in HEIs, the HEA is working with stakeholders to develop and commission national surveys of staff and students to monitor their experiences. These surveys are expected to launched this April.

Third Level Education

Questions (677)

Holly Cairns

Question:

677. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science his views on working with higher education institutions to ensure that online classes and virtual learning environments are made as accessible as possible for students living in areas with poor broadband connectivity, including recording lectures and workshops; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9977/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

It has been a significant priority for me and my Department, in the context of the shift to online teaching and learning that has arisen from the public health restrictions, to provide support to students to facilitate connectivity and to examine options designed to seek to minimise the extent to which connectivity challenges act as a barrier to full participation in higher and further education.

In this regard, as part of the package of financial support approved by Government to help underpin the recommencement of higher and further education for the current academic year, my Department allocated €15 million to higher and further education providers for a grant to support disadvantaged students in accessing ICT devices. This initiative which enabled a bulk purchase of approximately 16,500 laptops on behalf of higher education institutions is intended to help address concerns regarding the digital divide in the context of the shift to online and blended models of learning, and the importance of supporting disadvantaged students to adapt to these new models of learning.

The delivery through the National Broadband Plan of high-speed internet connectively nationwide will ultimately provide a solution to current differences in broadband experience for students and learners. In the interim there are initiatives across a number of Government Departments to facilitate connection through community-based broadband hubs and liaison with telecommunication providers on packages, including unlimited data. It is also worth noting that, at the present time HEAnet provides a WiFi solution - Eduroam - designed by and for the higher education community which operates across the education locations nationally. Eduroam allows a student to access WiFi wherever Eduroam is broadcast, enabling a student to seamlessly roam from one Eduroam location to another.

HEAnet is currently working on options to extend the reach of Eduroam beyond the traditional campus locations to areas within the wider community. An extended Eduroam footprint would greatly overcome connectivity challenges and facilitate staff and students in effective teaching and learning activities based at their home location. HEAnet has already made progress in this regard, with Eduroam now available at many teaching hospitals and several public libraries.

In addition, I have also recently facilitated engagement between HEAnet and relevant Government Departments and Public Sector Bodies to explore the potential for pilot projects trialling the availability to students of Eduroam, via wi-fi hotspots in public infrastructure owned and/or funded by the State. I anticipate receiving an update from HEAnet on its engagement with these bodies shortly.

All HEIs make use of virtual learning environments, though some make use of supplemental services to provide video material for lectures.

It must be understood, however, that Higher Education Institutions are autonomous institutions within the meaning of the Universities Act 1997, the Institutions of Technology Acts 1992 to 2006 and the Technological Universities Act 2018. Under this legislation the institutions are academically independent and are entitled to regulate their own academic affairs and administrative processes, including the delivery of online classes, and neither I nor my Department have a role in these internal processes.

Brexit Issues

Questions (678)

Rose Conway-Walsh

Question:

678. Deputy Rose Conway-Walsh asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science if there have been changes to the way that Irish students studying in Scotland will be treated as a result of Brexit; if will they continue to be treated as home students and eligible for support with fees for the 2021-22 academic year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9984/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

Until 31st December 2020, Scotland applied a exemption for EU students from outside the UK for its fee regime for higher education students. This facilitated the 'free fees' regime for Scottish students, and EU (including Irish students) while at the same time charging fees to students from England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

As a consequence of the UK departure from the EU, Scotland has advised that this arrangement is no longer possible. While Scotland opted to charge EU students the higher full international fee, Irish students will be treated on the same basis as UK students from outside Scotland. This means that they will be liable are now liable for fees of up to £9,250 per annum.

This revised arrangement does not impact on Irish students who are already pursuing their higher education studies in Scottish higher education institutions.

The Deputy should also note that I recently amended the Student Support Act 2011 which will ensure that eligible Irish students can take their SUSI grant should they choose to study in the UK. In addition, students seeking to pursue their studies in Scotland should contact the Student Awards Agency Scotland to explore their eligibility for further finance options.