Thursday, 18 February 2021
Department of Education and Skills
Higher Education Institutions
216. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to higher education institutions charging gym fees for the current academic year despite the lack of access to same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9009/21]
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 own academic affairs and administrative processes, and neither I nor my Department has a role in these internal processes, including in relation to gym fees.
The government’s Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business and Resilience and Recovery 2020-2021, Plan for Living with COVID-19, combined with the HSA Return to Work Protocols and ongoing Public Health advice, provide the over-arching framework for all sectors of society for the operation of their facilities and premises in keeping with public health advice. Under Level 5 of this plan gyms, leisure centres and swimming pools will remain closed until at least 5th March 2021.
Publicly funded HEIs are prescribed bodies under the remit of the Office of the Ombudsman and as such the Ombudsman may examine complaints from members of the public who believe that they have been unfairly treated by certain prescribed bodies. If a student feels that they have been unfairly treated by or are not satisfied with a higher education institution’s decision, it is open to them to contact the Office of the Ombudsman. The Ombudsman can investigate complaints about administrative actions or procedures as well as undue delays or inaction. The Ombudsman provides an impartial, independent and free dispute resolution service.