Harris announces government approval for SUSI review

The review will examine maintenance grants, the possibility of grants for part-time students and supports for postgrads

Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris TD announced that plans for a review of the Student Grant Scheme under Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI) have been granted government approval.

The SUSI system was established in 2012 following the Student Support Act of 2011 in an endeavour to provide financial grants for students who might otherwise be unable to afford higher education.

For the 2020/21 academic year, SUSI received over 100,000 applications for grants, and over 77,500 students were evaluated to be eligible for support. Out of concern that complications from Covid-19 would have a greater impact this year, the budget for SUSI in 2021 was increased by €20 million.

The review will encompass topics such as examining the value of maintenance grants, availability of student grants for part-time students, adjacent and non-adjacent rates and supports for postgraduate students. Additionally, it will monitor how Ireland compares to other student grant services internationally. 

Harris stated that Ireland needs “to help reduce the cost of education for families” because for many students, “cost can be a barrier to accessing third level”.

He went on to note that since the establishment of SUSI, there have been “huge changed in the Irish economy and society” and yet “the grant system has remained somewhat static”.

“I am conscious of the difficulties being experienced by students and their families as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, and of the importance of the Student Grant Scheme and related supports, such as the Student Assistance Fund and the Fund for Students with Disabilities,” he said. 

However, although these supports have played a large role in accessibility of third-level education, “we must do more,” said Harris.

The government review of the programme will attempt to “consider the current challenges facing students and to ascertain if the correct supports for eligible students are in place”. 

Harris detailed that this includes identifying whether or not the grant payments are sufficient in size and scale, pinpointing how better to support students who must move away for college, and determining whether part-time students should be eligible for supports. 

Review will begin early in the New Year and will comprise input from “students, parents and stakeholders too”. 

In conclusion, Minister Harris said: “We will want to hear from you on this too. We will engage with stakeholders early in the New Year to ensure your voice is heard.”

Audrey Brown

Audrey Brown is a Senior Fresher English Studies student, and the Deputy News Editor of Trinity News.