I thank Deputy Dillon for the question. I also thank him for talking about technological universities and for the work we have done together. I am delighted that the technological university for the north west now has a name. It will be the Atlantic technological university and will come into being in April. I am also delighted to see advertisements being placed to find the leadership of that technological university.
The student assistance fund is one of a suite of measures to support students participating in higher education. It is intended for students who are experiencing financial difficulties, whether those difficulties are temporary or permanent in nature. I am particularly aware of the impact of the pandemic on students. That is why this Government decided to provide the pandemic unemployment payment to students for such a lengthy period of time and why the student assistance fund has been more than doubled over two years. With that in mind, I have used Covid funding to significantly increase the student assistance fund.
The core funding amounts to €8.1 million, €1 million of which is ring-fenced core funding for the support of part-time students who are lone parents or members of the other access target groups identified in the national plan for equity of access to higher education. There is an additional €8.1 million for this year, funded through the Covid-19 return to education package for 2021.
The student assistance fund is administered by the HEA on behalf of my Department. Allocations from the fund are calculated using figures from each institution for the total student population and the number of disadvantaged students. In the previous academic year, 20,669 students benefited from the fund. That represents an increase of 6,339 students on the previous year.
With regard to Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology in Deputy Dillon's region, €576,587 was drawn down from the student assistance fund. Many of those living in the Deputy's region would also attend the National University of Ireland, Galway. Some €1.247 million was drawn down for this institution. I will provide a table to the Deputy as part of the answer to this question.