Thursday, 21 November 2019
Department of Education and Skills
Higher Education Institutions
85. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if the timeframe in which students with disabilities that are wheelchair users, visually impaired and hearing impaired could complete their degree course will be extended by at least one extra year without incurring extra costs or fees; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48385/19]
Students with disabilities are one of the target groups identified in the National Plan for Equity of Access to Higher Education (NAP).
Various access supports are available to students with disabilities such as:
- The Fund for Students with Disabilities (FSD) which allocates funding to further and higher education colleges for the provision of services and supports to students with disabilities. The FSD was extended in 2018 to cover students studying on a part-time basis;
- Students can also apply for financial support through the Student Assistance Fund (SAF);
- The Programme for Access to Higher Education (PATH) has allocated a number of 1916 Bursaries to NAP target groups such as students with disabilities and students who wish to undertake their studies on a part-time basis.
All eligible undergraduate students are covered by the Free Fees Initiative whereby the State provides funding towards tuition fees for students undertaking approved courses in eligible institutions. Under the rules of the initiative, tuition fees are not paid in respect of students undertaking a repeat year of study at the same level. However, this condition may be waived where there is evidence of exceptional circumstances, such as cases of certified serious illness. Decisions in such cases are made at a local level in each higher education institution in line with the criteria of the scheme. A similar approach applies in respect of grant support. In this regard, SUSI cannot extend funding past the normal duration of the course which is set out by the institutions themselves, unless the applicant is repeating the same year of a course under exceptional circumstances.