Simon Harris announces over €22 million in funding to support to third-level students

The funding includes €5 million for mental health supports

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris has announced €22 million in student’s support.

€17.1 million of the funding will go towards the Student Assistance Fund (SAF) to provide support to full or part-time students experiencing financial difficulties.

Another €5 million will be allocated to support students’ mental health and wellbeing.

Speaking today, Harris stated: “The Student Assistance Fund is available in publicly funded colleges across the country and is accessible to anyone who needs help with the day-to-day costs such as transport, rent, childcare, college materials etc.”

He added: “Students have endured an incredibly difficult few years and this fund ensures we can continue to invest in services and in the wellbeing of students.”

According to the government’s website, the €5 million mental health fund can be used for recruiting additional student counsellors and supporting implementation of the National Student Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Framework.

Further, it may be used for supporting implementation of the “Framework for Consent” in Higher Education Institutions, to prevent and end sexual harassment in higher education institutions (HEIs).

Dr Alan Wall, CEO of the Higher Education Authority (HEA) noted: “In using this funding to provide students with access to supports and to mobilise all members of the campus community to implement the National Student Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Framework, HEIs can provide the leadership needed in the post-Covid learning environment to enhance the student experience, to ensure each student can capitalise on their potential and contribute overall to their positive development.”

The funding allocated is identical to that announced in October of last year for the 2021/22 academic year.

In February, Harris announced an additional €1.3 million in funding for the SAF for the remaining academic year.

Students have voiced dissatisfaction with the cost of college in recent months, with thousands nationally walking out of classes in protest last month as part of the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) National Student Walkout.

After the announcement of the 2023 Budget, USI said that the once-off reduction of the student contribution fee by €1000 “will not remove the barrier of high cost of college in Ireland”.