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Students win new independent appeals process for university grants

The Union of Students in Ireland has hailed the establishment of a central appeals board by minister Ruairí Quinn.

Ruairí Quinn called the new board
Ruairí Quinn called the new board "an historic development"
Image: Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland

MINISTER FOR EDUCATION Ruairí Quinn has set up an independent board to review university grant appeals, in a move which has been welcomed by students’ unions.

The inaugural Student Grant Appeals Board is to be established today, chaired by a former government official and comprising academics and education experts.

It will allow students who have applied for grants for this academic year to have any appeals determined by one central, independent authority. Minister Quinn called the Board “an historic development in the area of student grants”.

Before the Student Support Act was passed earlier this year, all student grants were awarded by 66 individual local authorities and VECs across Ireland, and appeals had to be directed to the student’s own awarding body. From September 2012, all student grant applications will be handled by one central authority, with the Appeals Board as a separate entity.

Gary Redmond, president of the Union of Students in Ireland, this morning welcomed the move. He told TheJournal.ie: “We’re extremely happy. What this means for the average student is that they have someone independent to turn to, and grant criteria will be applied fairly and impartially to everybody.”

He said previously, the criteria “might have been applied in slightly different ways across the awarding authorities”.

The Board will be chaired by Maureen Waldron, former Secretary General of the Department of Social Protection. Its members will include Padraig McNamara, former chief of the State Examinations Commission; Dr Marie Clarke, head of education at UCD; Rebecca Murphy, former UCC Student Union welfare officer; and Brenna Clarke, retired professor of English at St Patrick’s College of Education.

Minister Quinn said: “The experience and expertise that the members will bring to the process will be an important contribution to improving the grant experience for students.”

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Read: UCC becomes Ireland’s first five-star university but others drop in rankings>

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Michael Freeman

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