Thursday, 23 June 2016
Department of Education and Skills
Graduate Medicine Programme Fees
119. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to the situation whereby banks are refusing to make student finance available to those wishing to study graduate entry medicine, as the remuneration newly qualified doctors are in receipt of is insufficient to cover the cost of the repayment of this debt; if he will consider introducing a student loan scheme for graduate medical students to improve participation rates for those from lower income households; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17705/16]
As the Deputy may be aware students who qualify for entry to the Graduate Entry Medicine (GEM) programme are liable for the cost of their tuition fees as they already hold an undergraduate qualification. However, the costs for EU students are partly subsidised by the State through a grant provided by the Higher Education Authority. For the 2015/16 academic year the subsidy was €9,500 per student.
In addition, as GEM students already hold an undergraduate qualification, they are not liable for assistance under my Department's Student Grant Scheme. Students in third-level institutions 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. Details of this fund are available from the Access Office in the third level institution attended.
Also, tax relief at the standard rate of tax may be claimed in respect of tuition fees paid for approved courses at approved colleges of higher education.
Finally, as the Deputy will be aware, an Expert Group was established by the last government to examine funding arrangements more generally in the higher education sector, including student support mechanisms. The Expert Group has completed its work and its report will shortly be considered. As signalled in the Programme for Government, it is the intention to consult the cross-party Oireachtas Committee as part of the process for formulating a plan for the future of this sector.