The Higher Education Authority and Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris have announced €5 million worth of funding will be making its way to student mental health supports in institutions of higher education nationwide. UCD will be the beneficiary of €356,000 of this funding, the second-most of any individual institution.

According to the HEA’s press release, the money will specifically be used for implementing Department frameworks for consent, mental health and suicide prevention, as well as recruiting additional counsellors and psychologists.

€2 million of this funding was already promised to institutions by Harris’ predecessors back in 2019, and the other €3 million was previously announced a few weeks ago as part of the Department’s overall response to COVID-19. Last week, when asked by the College Tribune, the Department of Further and Higher Education had insisted that the original €2 million was “available to higher education institutions via the funding allocation model earlier this year”. However, today’s announcement appears to mean that the funding will now be making its way to the institutions, with the HEA saying they are “contacting higher education institutions in the coming week setting out individual allocations and the conditions attaching to the use of these funds.”

As part of the announcement, Minister Harris spoke to student concerns over mental health, saying, “The number one health issue for young people in Ireland today is concerns or worries around their mental health. These concerns have been compounded by the isolation and uncertainty brought forward by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

When asked for comment about the funding, UCD SU Welfare Officer Ruairí Power said, “UCD Students’ Union welcomes this morning’s announcement. This funding is incredibly important and will go a long way to deal with increased demand for Student Counselling Services arising out of the Covid-19 pandemic. Ensuring that additional staff are in place to support students when UCD reopens is absolutely essential. We look forward to seeing the conditions attached to the use of funds which will be communicated to higher education institutions in the coming week.”

UCC SU Welfare Officer Jamie Fraser, who has been vocal about securing this funding, said that he was “delighted to see this come through” and that “to see the specific details of how said monies will be distributed is extremely encouraging, particularly with regards to recruiting additional counsellors. However, we are hoping we don’t see a repeat of what happened last year with the 2 million being pushed into the dark.”

Jack McGee – Reporter