In a press release earlier this morning, the Department of Further and Higher Education announced the creation of a Covid-19 contingency fund for the sector’s access and support services.
The €1.9 million funding is aiming to help deliver much-needed support to vulnerable students in target groups, such as mature students, students with disabilities, students from ethnic minority groups, students from the Irish travelling community and lone parents.
Announcing the funding, Minister for Further and Higher Education, Simon Harris stated: “All students have suffered as a result of COVID-19, but it is clear some students face greater challenges than others.”
This funding announcement comes only days after the Budget 2021, the largest in the history of the state, which allocated €3.3 billion to the higher education sector, and the establishment of another once-off hardship fund for students financially affected by the pandemic, worth an estimated €50 million.
Minister Harris continued: “[This fund] will support learner/student access; engagement or re-engagement activities; positive learning experiences; outreach and student advisory support.”
The department “hopes” this funding, as part of the €10 million access support package from government’s overall Covid-19 funding package, will help in the implementation of the National Plan for Equity of Access (2015-2021) and the Programme for Access to Higher Education (PATH) fund’s objectives of bringing in and supporting students from target groups.
Remarking on the importance of this funding in addressing current issues arising from the pandemic, Minister Harris exclaimed: “Our students are our future and we are asking a lot of them at this formative stage in their lives, as we face the extraordinary challenges of today.”
Minister Harris concluded: “We must all do our bit to ensure their student experience is one which will help them blossom, by giving them confidence that the support is there for them when they need it.”