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Third-level students: €50 million fund created to help students switch to online learning

SUSI grant to be increased for post-graduate students.

Image: Shutterstock/Leigh Trail

THE GOVERNMENT HAS announced the creation of a €50 million fund to provide financial assistance to third-level students. 

The new fund, announced as part of Budget 2021, is aimed at compensating students by up to €250 for costs associated with the switch to online learning.

Higher education minister Simon Harris said that “detailed work will be undertaken on how this once-off fund will operate”.

Speaking on RTÉ News this evening, Lorna Fitzpatrick, president of Union of Students in Ireland, said the announcement was “good news”.

However, she said Budget 2021 did little to address structural issues in higher education.

“It’s a one-off payment of €250 per student so it will help to maybe purchase that laptop or pay for their broadband for the next couple of months so they can access that online learning.

But I think the broader message throughout the Budget today is that there was very little done to address the systemic issues… affecting people in higher education.

As part of his Budget 2021 speech, Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath also announced that the SUSI grant  — which covers the cost of tuition fees of certain postgraduate courses — will be increased by €1,500 to €3,500.

The eligibility threshold for the grant is also set to be adjusted. Details of the changes are yet to emerge.

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In total, the Department of Higher Education has been allocated €3.3 billion for next year.

Some €15 million will also be given to higher education institutions to undertake minor capital works and purchase equipment.

The government has also announced funding for 5,000 additional third-level places to accommodate demographic growth and any “exceptional demand” arising from the Leaving Cert calculated grades system.

Other higher education measures announced in the Budget include:

  • Funding for 1,500 ‘Springboard’ places
  • Nearly €30 million in research investment to “support researchers, build capacity, support Covid research, and strengthen north-south research links”.
  • A review of the SUSI grant system “to guide the future strategic direction of the scheme”.

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