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Written Answers - Higher Education Grants

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 765 No. 3

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 211.  Deputy Simon Harris Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris  asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  the grants available to Irish students who have been accepted for postgraduate study at universities in Northern Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23814/12]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn In the context of the necessary but difficult expenditure reduction measures announced in Budget 2012, new students entering postgraduate courses, including those in Northern Ireland, from the 2012/13 academic year onwards will not be entitled to maintenance payments under the Student Grant Scheme. Existing postgraduate students will not be affected.

However, those students who meet the qualifying conditions for the special rate of grant will be eligible to have their post-graduate tuition fees paid up to the maximum fee limit under the Student Grant Scheme.

In access terms, the requirement to pay a fee is considered to be a greater obstacle to entry than lack of maintenance support at postgraduate level. This is why I opted to maintain the fee-payment ahead of maintenance payments for postgraduate students.

In addition, a further limited number of students who would previously have qualified under the standard grant thresholds will qualify to have a €2,000 contribution made towards the costs of their fees. However, there will be a new income threshold for this payment which will be lower than the standard grant threshold. The income threshold for this level of grant is currently being determined in the context of the formulation of the student grant scheme for the 2012/13 academic year. Tax relief is also available on postgraduate tuition fees. Details in relation to this relief are available from the Revenue Commissioners.

In addition to this, the Fund for Students with Disabilities (FSD) provides funding to higher education institutions for the provision of services and supports for full-time students with disabilities, including those pursuing post graduate study at universities in Northern Ireland.

While it is regrettable that any changes need to be made to student supports, I believe this approach will continue to provide resources for a relatively wide number of post-graduate students and allow us to maintain the high level of supports provided to undergraduate students.

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