HEA welcomes Government roadmap and stimulus package in support of students and higher education institutions in Ireland



By Maura O'Shea

Posted: 22 July, 2020

The Higher Education Authority (HEA) today, Wednesday 22nd July, welcomed the publication of a high-level Government Roadmap towards the return to higher education in autumn 2020 by the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris TD and Minister of State Niall Collins TD. The HEA has worked closely with the Minister, his Department and the sectoral representative bodies to examine and overcome some of the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Alongside the Roadmap, the Minister announced a significant financial package of €168 million in support of students, staff and higher education institutions. The fund will help alleviate some of the impacts of the Pandemic and will support both new students and those returning to college for the next academic year.

These supports are intended to address challenges such as the digital divide that has emerged or deepened for students migrating to online teaching and learning. The HEA has been engaging closely with Access Offices in higher education following the pandemic to better understand the key challenges faced by some of our most vulnerable students.  The priorities emerging have consistently centred around IT requirements to enable student participation in teaching, learning and assessment, and the need for additional financial supports for students.  The Minister’s announcement today is therefore particularly welcome as it addresses both priorities – €15 million for IT devices and supports and an additional €8 million is being allocated to the Student Assistance Fund.  Commenting on the announcement Dr Alan Wall, Chief Executive Officer, HEA said

“This is an extremely challenging time for all students, but the challenges are multiplied for students experiencing any form of social or financial disadvantage.  Today’s announcement gives essential reassurance to students that financial help is available in their college if they need it and that they will be able to access the necessary IT equipment and supports to successfully participate in their education”. 

There are also supports for campus preparations such as social distancing measures, screens and PPE for students and staff. Other important features of the package include supports for research (a major driver of social and economic progress in Ireland), international students, mental health and wellbeing as well as enhanced online teaching and learning.

Noting the Minister’s welcome support, Dr Wall said:

“This vote of confidence by the Minister and Government in our higher education system is a welcome boost to a sector that has worked hard to maintain services and to support students, staff and our economy and society over difficult recent months. Irish higher education and research has in the past proven its ability to contribute to economic and social renewal and progress. Today’s announcement will help institutions to prepare to play that role again as we work to overcome the serious financial impact of Covid-19 on higher education”.

The full press statement from the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science is available here.

ENDS

For further information, please contact Maura O’Shea, HEA Communications

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