Minister Harris announces 17,000 laptops for third level students

A fund for student devices amounting to €15 million has been introduced for third level students

This morning, Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris has announced that 17,000 laptops are to be given to third level students across the country. 

A fund for student devices amounting to €15 million has been introduced, which is part of a €168 million package for further and higher education sectors to deal with the impacts of Covid-19.

In the announcement video on Twitter, Harris stated: “You’ve heard me talking a lot in recent times about the digital divide, and about making sure that every student can access online classes and blended learning.”

“It’s not acceptable to tell people there’s online classes or blended learning without making sure that students have the access to the devices that we require,” he added. 

Harris continued: “So, we’ve made a decision to put 15 million into a technology fund. Part of that funding is being used to purchase 17,000 laptops.”

The laptops will be distributed to higher level students across the country, and students can apply for laptops through their local access office. 

The funding has already been used by higher education institutions and further education institutions to place a bulk order of 16,700 devices for students across third level and further devices.

The €168 million funding package includes an additional €10 million for access supports, which will “complement” the IT support package, according to government. 

The devices will be distributed through targeted lending schemes, which run by the colleges and third level institutions themselves. 

In the higher education sector, the distribution of laptops will be overseen by Student Access Offices. In the further education and training sector, this will be overseen by the Education and Training Board (ETB) management.

Trinity are to receive €466,224 towards the purchasing of new laptops for disadvantaged students, while University College Dublin (UCD) are to receive €777,017.

Technological University Dublin (TU Dublin) is set to receive the greatest amount of funding from government for the purchase of new laptops, amounting to €1,290,463 of the fund.

The grant funding for the devices will be provided to higher education institutions through the Higher Education Authority (HEA) and to education and training boards through SOLAS. 

The bulk order of laptops was organised by HEAnet, which provides internet connectivity and ICT services to education bodies throughout Ireland.

In the press release this morning, Minister Harris said: “The focus will be on ensuring disadvantaged students will have access to the devices.”

“But we must also recognise many students and their families have fallen on hard times as a result of COVID-19,” he added. “We must ensure they don’t fall behind in their studies and ensure they can access this support fund also.”

Harris continued: “We still have significant work to do to address the digital divide in Ireland but this will go some of the way to doing that.”

On July 22, Harris announced that a €168 million funding package approved for third level education had been approved for government, to help third level institutions recover from the Covid-19 crisis. 

Trinity is expected to start the upcoming term on September 28, three weeks later than the original start date of the Michaelmas term. 

Shannon Connolly

Shannon Connolly is the Editor-in-Chief of the 69th volume Trinity News, and a Senior Sophister student of English Literature and Philosophy. She previously served as Deputy Editor, News Editor and Assistant News Editor.