The State’s current policy on student accommodation and housing is “not working”, according to the minister for further and higher education.
Simon Harris was speaking as he appeared before the Oireachtas education committee with Minister of State Niall Collins to discuss the establishment of the Munster Technological University (MTU).
The project, which will see Cork Institute of Technology and IT Tralee merge and granted technological university status, passed another milestone yesterday.
Pending Oireachtas approval, the MTU will formally be established on January 1 after the education committee approved the draft order to move the designation into the final stages.
The MTU, which will be the second technological university in the State and the first outside the capital, is an important milestone for higher education, and for the South West, the committee heard.
Plans to progress technical university designation in other regions are also under way.
Mr Harris and Mr Collins were also asked about literacy, apprenticeships, and various matters affecting third-level students. Additional college places created to help deal with demand this year are to be retained next year, Mr Harris also confirmed.
Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire, Sinn Féin’s education spokesman, said there was a fear that private accommodation companies could increase rents for students.
In response, Mr Harris said: “I don't think our policy on student accommodation is working. I don't think it's robust enough.”
He suggested that a new funding model should be developed that would allow technological universities to build student accommodation.
“It’s a housing challenge as much as an education challenge because you're having the student compete with the family with two or three kids for the same house.”
Meanwhile, a €55m minor works grant payments for schools to be paid in early December has been announced by the Department of Education.