Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) are governed by the Universities Act 1997, the Institutes of Technologies Acts 1992 to 2006 and the Technological Universities Act 2018. Within the meaning of these Acts, HEIs are autonomous bodies and are responsible for their own day-to-day management and operational affairs including dealing with policy and procedure in relation to fee collection. My Department therefore has no role in relation to such matters.
It is not intended that the reform of the HEA legislation will include any provisions which will amend the autonomy of institutions to determine such policies.
However, I am very aware of the difficulties facing students during this pandemic. I would encourage all higher education institutions to have a responsive approach to student needs wherever possible and it is important to acknowledge that most HEIs have to date shown enormous willingness to be responsive in numerous ways. I would encourage all institutions to engage with students in relation to any issues,including fees.
From my Department's perspective, 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.
Students 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 of the institution attended. The fund is administered on a confidential, discretionary basis.