Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris TD has today secured Government approval for €105 million for the third level sector to safely reopen in September 2021.
The package will include financial support for further and higher education to return on-site safely and in line with public health advice, and additional student supports for students in further and higher education.
€21 million of this funding will be allocated to provide specific extra supports for students including an extra €3m for student mental health, an extra €10m for the Student Assistance Fund which provides financial supports to students experiencing financial difficulties while in college, and €8m for the Mitigating Educational Disadvantage Fund which supports and engages disadvantaged learners.
Speaking today, Minister Harris said: “Today, the Government confirmed third level education is an essential service and will return safely on-site in September.
"Third level education has been primarily online for almost a year and a half and this is not sustainable. The Plan for a Safe Return On-Site includes the return of lectures, with some modifications to overall numbers and specific mitigation measures.
“The funding will ensure Covid-19 supports for the sector and importantly, specific supports for students who will return to a new world in September. This will include additional mental health and other student supports.
“This past 18 months has been a really difficult time for students, particularly those vulnerable learners. Covid-19 has had an effect on many people’s mental health. We need to ensure our students are supported as they get back to campus.”
Third level has been online since March 2020 with exceptions made for practical and time-critical work. The Government remains committed to third level education safely reopening and staying on-site in line with public health guidelines for the rest of the year.
Over the summer and on into the autumn institutions and providers, with their stakeholders, will be planning and working to make sure that this happens. Contingency plans are also being prepared in the event of a spike in Covid-cases, but these will continue to have significant on-site attendance.
Minister Harris said: "Over 250,000 people attend further and higher education every year. This year the bulk of their work has been online. We know we had do it and we know why, but we also know we cannot have an academic year like the last.
“We need to begin the next academic year on the right foot, get our learners and staff back on-site and start the work of preventing long term effects of the pandemic for our youngest adults. I know this has been a tough year for students and staff but thankfully, a better year awaits you.”
Notes to the Editor