Thursday, 17 December 2020
Department of Education and Skills
Third Level Costs
462. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if he will work with third level institutions to ensure that persons pursuing a degree in art and design are not subject to materials levies for materials that are necessary for their degree work; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44225/20]
Higher Education Institutions are autonomous institutions within the meaning of the Universities Act 1997, the Institutions of Technology Acts 1992 to 2006 and the Technological Universities Act 2018. Under this legislation, the institutions are academically independent and are entitled to regulate their academic affairs and administrative processes, including in relation to fees charged for course materials. Neither I nor my Department have a role in these internal processes.
In terms of supports for students in higher education the main support available is the statutory based Student Grant Scheme where students are studying for the first time or are progressing to study at a higher level e.g. progressing to postgraduate study. The aim of the student maintenance grant scheme is to make a contribution towards the cost of going to college and to assist students with their living costs while in college. It is at the student’s discretion how the student grant is utilised.
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 an additional once-off payment 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.
SUSI and institutions will be communicating directly with students on arrangements in the coming weeks.
All students in third-level institutions experiencing exceptional financial need can apply for support under the Student Assistance Fund (SAF). 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. Eligible costs covered by the SAF include books and class material, rent, heating and lighting bills, food, essential travel, childcare costs, medical costs and family difficulties e.g. bereavement. Information on the fund is available through the Access Officer in the third level institution attended. This fund is administered on a confidential, discretionary basis. The total SAF funding for 2020 is €18.2m which includes an additional €8.1m made available by the Government under a July Stimulus Package.