The government has announced the introduction of a full maintenance grant for 1,100 postgraduate students as part of Budget 2017. The grant, worth almost €6,000, will be made available to students in the lowest income category.
The scheme is part of an €8.5 million package to support disadvantaged students, including lone parents and Travellers, in accessing higher education. The €4 million maintenance grant scheme will come into effect from September 2017.
In their pre-budget submission, USI called on the government to reinstate the postgraduate maintenance grant scheme, abolished in 2012, costing €53 million. In 2012, the maintenance grant was replaced by a postgraduate fee contribution ranging from €2,000 to €6,270 depending on income.
Last month, a Postgraduate Representatives forum made up of postgraduate officers and representatives from a number of Irish universities submitted a report to the Department of Education and Skills. The report noted that the years following the abolition of the grants saw a decline in the level of postgraduate enrollment. In this report, the forum recommended the reintroduction of the grant scheme as it was prior to abolition.
Speaking to Trinity News, GSU President Shane Collins said the entire system is “not funded the way it needs to be.” He acknowledged that the introduction of the grant scheme introduced today is a “building block” on the way to full restoration of the previous grant system that existed prior to 2012. Addressing the problems facing postgraduate students, he noted that often they can afford the tuition fees themselves. It is extra expenses such as accommodation, medical bills and sometimes childcare that can “push them over the edge.”
Additional reporting by Seán Ó Deoráin. Illustration by Nadia Bertaud.