Thursday, 2 March 2017
Department of Education and Skills
Third Level Fees
87. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if he will oppose an end to the free fees scheme and abolish the student registration charges in view of the recent figures on the number of students in receipt of grants in third level institutions (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10972/17]
The Report of the Expert Group on Future Funding for Higher Education, published in July 2016, clearly outlines the funding challenges in the higher education sector and offers a number of approaches and recommendations for consideration. As committed to in the Programme for Government, I have referred the report to the Education Committee as part of the process for formulating a plan for the future of the sector. This will ensure that all views can be heard and considered.
We will require reasonable consensus to enable us to move forward with a realistic and achievable strategy for funding the system into the future. I shall work with the Education Committee as it analyses all of the options put forward by the Expert Group and hears the voice of all stakeholders and all sides of the debate.
While Cassells deals with the medium and long term funding needs of higher education we also have to consider the immediate challenges and in that context I am pleased that we placed a particular focus on this area in Budget 2017 and I secured additional funding for the sector for the first time in recent years. In Action Plan Education 2017, Higher Education will be a particular focus. In 2017 an additional €36.5 million will be made available with €160 million additional over the next three years. This will allow the sector keep pace with demographic increases and introduce targeted initiatives in areas such as disadvantage, skills, research and flexible learning. Among those who will benefit from the additional third level funding being made available are, students from disadvantaged backgrounds, lone parents and Travellers.