The government budget for the coming year has been announced officially today including additional investment into third and higher-level education, bringing up total expenditure into education to €8.6 billion.

A financial support fund worth €50 Million has been set up to help students through what Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris described as a “tough year”. The breakdown of how this fund will be distributed has not been officially yet.

Harris stated that “For students, this year has been like no other. The majority of college will be online for this semester and we will provide financial assistance through a €50 million fund. Detailed work will be undertaken on how this once-off fund will operate for submission to Government prior to commencement.”

The Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI) will receive an additional €20 Million in order to subsidise students during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. An additional increase to the SUSI grant for postgraduate study by €1,500 to €3,500 has been announced along with and an adjustment to the income eligibility threshold. Postgraduate students will now be eligible for the fund should their income be less than €54,240, an increase of almost €22,740 from the previous threshold of €31,500.

The Department for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science have been allocated a total of €3.268 billion for the coming year, with almost €2 billion of which given specifically to Higher Education. More than €270 million has been allocated to fund 20 higher education building projects across the country.

Minister Harris has announced via Twitter that a “full review” of the SUSI grant would be conducted before summer ‘21. The review will assess “eligibility, adjacency rates [and] part-time education”. A Mitigating Educational Disadvantage Fund of €8 million has been set up by Harris with the goal of “support[ing] community education & to engage with disadvantaged learners.”

The ongoing Apprenticeship Incentivisation Scheme will be extended until June 2021. The scheme which offers €3000 to any employer who hires an apprentice was due to finish by the end of this calendar year.

Minister Harris spoke regarding the budgetary decisions: “Covid-19 has brought unprecedented challenges for the economy and for people across the country. My Department will help people who have lost their job get back on their feet.

“Budget 2021 will see a total investment of €118.5 million to upskill and reskill people who have been affected by the impacts of the current pandemic and train in the skills of the future, particularly the climate agenda. The investment will be aimed at those that require it the most, whether that is to assist with seeking employment or to upskill in their current jobs. “

Hugh Dooley – News Editor