Dáil debates

Thursday, 14 January 2021

Covid-19 (Higher Education): Statements


5:40 pm

Photo of Simon HarrisSimon Harris (Wicklow, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

Deputy Mattie McGrath is right to end on a positive note. As tough as this time is, we and the next generation will bounce back from this and we must all support them in that regard. Deputies Michael Collins and Mattie McGrath raised the very important matter of student accommodation and I will make a couple of points on it.

With college-owned accommodation, I expect universities and colleges to be flexible and give refunds where students have not been able to use the accommodation through no fault of their own. I note that some students, for a variety of legitimate reasons, have decided to take up that accommodation. Perhaps they might not have the space or opportunity to learn at home.

We need much more publicly owned or campus-owned accommodation and we will come forward with plans in that regard. We are still too reliant on the private market, which in many ways pits students against other people trying to rent accommodation. We have doubled the size of the student assistance fund, which is for students who have fallen on particular hardship. There is €16 million in that fund this year and it is available through all college access offices. I encourage the Deputies to direct their constituents to that.

I thank Deputy Michael Collins for the point he made relating to horticulture. I will make specific inquiries of the Higher Education Authority and come back to him in that regard and on the matter of placements. I am asking all bodies to provide flexibility and common sense on placements so nobody loses out at this time.

Both Deputies referenced broadband and I announced in my opening statement our plans to roll out eduroam broadband to 90 more locations across the country. It is clearly a major issue. On the SUSI review, I take the point about the non-adjacent rate and its impact on people in rural Ireland. There will be an opportunity for the Deputies to make submissions when we open to public consultations very shortly. I will look at the application from Tipperary mentioned by Deputy Mattie McGrath and revert to him.


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