The government will consider reducing registration fees for third level students, who are potentially facing extra costs and challenges when classes return in the autumn, higher education minister Simon Harris said.
Mr Harris made the remarks as he unveiled a funding boost of €168m for the sector, part of which will go to paying for laptops and equipment for students to work on courses remotely under pandemic conditions.
Up to €34m of this will help with online learning, including equipment for thousands of students. Another €48m will go towards protecting research, while institutions that helped out during pandemic with buildings and equipment will get €14.4m. Institutions will also get €41m for health protection measures.
€168 million package from Government to support our third level sector, help them safely reopen & crucially extra supports for students -doubling of student assistance fund, extra funding for mental health & students with disabilities & €15m fund to provide access to devices pic.twitter.com/Nb3265dQNN— Simon Harris TD (@SimonHarrisTD) July 22, 2020
The emergency funds come as the third level sector prepares to reopen in September.
“Individual providers and institutions will be developing their own detailed plans and contingencies for reopening, and they will be communicating directly with students and learners about how they intend to resume on-site learning," Mr Harris said.
He confirmed there would be different solutions for different institutions and courses.
Mr Harris was quizzed about students facing significant registration fees when they are also being asked to go along with blended or remote learning and amid the pandemic.
He said this was a reasonable question and something that could be looked at as part of the estimates process, which leads up to October's budget.
"We have just established a new government and department and what we need to do now over the course of the coming weeks, in advance of the estimates, is to work out how best we work out how cost is never a barrier to accessing education,” he said.
He also said the government and institutions will monitor how a reduced number of international students coming to Ireland will impact revenue for colleges.