Tuesday, 29 September 2020

Ceisteanna (664)

Seán Canney

Ceist:

664. Deputy Seán Canney asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science if funding will be made available to mature and access students to purchase laptops in order to avail of online and blended learning during the Covid-19 pandemic; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27343/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Further and Higher Education)

As part of the package of COVID supports for the higher and further education sector approved by Government on 22 July 2020, my Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science has allocated €15 million of capital funding for a once-off Covid-19 Grant to support disadvantaged students in accessing ICT devices. This grant is being made available to further and higher education institutions. The institutions are using the grant funding to purchase devices to support disadvantaged students, including students who belong to a National Access Plan target group, who are encountering challenges in accessing devices for online and blended learning.  The distribution of the devices will be via appropriate lending schemes, the associated terms and conditions, will be a matter for each individual further or higher education provider.

Students in third-level institutions experiencing exceptional financial need can apply for support under the Student Assistance Fund. This Fund assists full-time and part-time 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 higher education institution (HEI) attended. Institutions have the autonomy to maximise the flexibility in the Student Assistance Fund to support students during the Covid 19 pandemic.

The package of Covid 19 supports referred to above also includes a further €10m in access supports for students. Most of this money will be used to top up the Student Assistance Fund, with remaining funding used to support students via the access services in the higher education institutions.