EDUCATION MINISTER Ruairí Quinn has refused to rule out scrapping all grants for postgraduate college students – saying the Budget process is so harsh that the grants cannot be left untouched.
It was reported last week that the forthcoming Budget would have to take the radical step of cutting all grants to postgrad students, as part of the government’s efforts to reduce spending by €2.2 billion in next month’s Budget.
Seeking assurances from the minister that the reported cuts would not materialise, Fianna Fáil TD Brendan Smith and independent Michael Healy-Rae tabled Dáil questions asking the minister to dismiss the rumours.
However, in his response – published over the weekend – Quinn said the current economic circumstances would mean “difficult choices will have to be made”.
Quinn said he could not comment on the preparation of Budget estimates, but that changes to student grants “cannot be ruled out” while the government seeks “to control public expenditure and to ensure sustainability in the long run”.
The minister asserted, though, that he would try to ensure that disadvantaged students were protected by the education cuts contained in the Budget, which will be announced in 15 days’ time.
The Union of Students in Ireland, which has condemned the idea of cutting all postgraduate grants, is currently seeking leave for a judicial review to last year’s revision of grant eligibility criteria.
They claim that last year’s changes – which mean that students living within 45km of their college are no longer entitled to the higher ‘non-adjacent’ rate, increased from 24km the previous year – were unfair on students already in college.