Written answers

Tuesday, 21 July 2020

Department of Education and Skills

Third Level Examinations

Photo of Brendan GriffinBrendan Griffin (Kerry, Fine Gael)
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366. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the reason some colleges are charging a repeat exam fee and most other colleges are not (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16493/20]

Photo of Gary GannonGary Gannon (Dublin Central, Social Democrats)
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407. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if her attention has been drawn to the decision of NUIG to charge students the full €295 fee for repeat exams in August 2020 despite the significant loss of income for many students and academic stress due to Covid-19; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17020/20]

Norma Foley (Kerry, Fianna Fail)
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I propose to take Questions Nos. 366 and 407 together.

The Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) are governed by the Universities Act 1997, the Institutes of Technologies Acts 1992 to 2006 and the Technological Universities Act 2018. Within the meaning of these Acts, HEIs are autonomous with regard to the management of their academic affairs and retain the right to determine their own policies and procedures in this area. In relation to fees the student contribution charge covers the cost of elements such as student registration, admissions and examination fees. However, repeat examination fees are charged separately being set by the individual HEI concerned and the Minister does not have a function in this regard.

In terms of supports for third level students, the main support available is the statutory based Student Grant Scheme. To qualify for grant support, a student is required to meet various criteria such as means, residency, nationality and progression.

Apart from the Student Grant Scheme, students in HEIs experiencing exceptional financial need can apply for support under the Student Assistance Fund (SAF). The SAF is managed by the Higher Education Authority and is allocated annually to prescribed HEIs including universities. Under the SAF students may be assisted towards the costs of rent, childcare, transport and books/class materials etc. The 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 the SAF are available from the Access Office in the institution attended. Institutions have the autonomy to maximise the flexibility in the Student Assistance Fund to enable HEIs to support students during the COVID-19 situation.

It is noted that NUI Galway, which is referenced specifically by the Deputies, states that there is limited support available in relation to the payment of repeat examination fees in certain prescribed circumstances, details of which are to be found on their website:

In addition, it is incumbent upon HEIs to have policies and complaints procedures in place which provide a mechanism for students to resolve any grievances, details of which would be accessible on their website. If an individual feels that he or she has been unfairly treated, or is not satisfied with an institution’s decision on his or her complaint, it is open to that individual to contact the Office of the Ombudsman. The Ombudsman examines complaints from the public in relation to certain actions of education providers including HEIs. Further information on the complaint procedures of the Office of the Ombudsman is below for the Deputies' information.

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