Written answers

Tuesday, 15 December 2020

Department of Education and Skills

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

Mairead Farrell (Galway West, Sinn Fein)
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40. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills his views on the €50 million scheme that grants €250 to Irish and EU higher-level students studying in Ireland who have been impacted by Covid-19 which excludes Irish students studying in other EU jurisdictions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40234/20]

Photo of Simon HarrisSimon Harris (Wicklow, Fine Gael)
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In recognition of the challenges facing full time third level students the Government has approved once off funding of €50m to provide additional financial assistance in this academic year.

The funding was provided in Budget 2021, in recognition of the exceptional situation they have experienced due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Financial assistance will be provided to all EU full-time undergraduate and postgraduate students attending publicly funded Higher Education Institutions.

The scheme will ensure students;

- Who avail of the SUSI grant, including students abroad, will receive €250 top-up in their grant;

- Students who do not avail of the grant but attend publicly funded Higher Education Institutions in the state can reduce by €250 any outstanding student contribution fee payments or receive a €250 credit note for their institution;

- In a small number of cases, alternative arrangements will be made for the payment of the monies to students at the discretion of institutions.

The latter two options are designed to ensure students who are not in receipt of SUSI benefit from the measure. It is also the intention that these address circumstances where students are in final year, have paid their contribution fee and may not be on campus.

Irish/EU/EEA students partaking in courses in other countries who are in receipt of SUSI support are eligible for the payment if they are attending approved SUSI courses in approved higher education institutions within the EU. However other EU fulltime students outside of the SUSI system must be registered in a publicly funded higher education provider in the State to avail of this allocation.

In terms of other Irish nationals studying abroad, the provision of supports to Irish citizens based on nationality alone with the exclusion of other EU nationals would be contrary to EU law. It is therefore not possible to provide supports based on Irish citizenship alone. Instead the measure applies to all of these qualifying for SUSI grants, wherever they are studying and those of EU nationality at publicly funded higher education institutions in the State. Additionally a key administrative feature of the fund is that it is being implemented with the assistance of publicly funded institutions in the State under the remit of my Department.

SUSI and institutions will be communicating directly with students on arrangements in the coming weeks.

Additionally Budget 2021 provides further funding to enhance SUSI grant supports for post-grads and increase support for the PATH access initiative.

This builds on the additional supports announced in July including a doubling of the Student Assistance Fund, and a €15 million technology fund for devices for students in further and higher education.

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