COVID-19 and access supports
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government announced a €168 million once-off support package for higher education institutions and students in July 2020. This funding is intended to cover costs incurred by higher education institutions during the pandemic and enable students return to college for the 2020/21 academic year.
Doubling of the Student Assistance Fund
As part of this COVID-19 response package, an additional €8.1 million was allocated to the Student Assistance Fund. With this additional funding, the amount available under the Student Assistance Fund for 2020/21 is €16.2 million. Higher education institutions have been requested to be mindful of the COVID-19-related financial difficulties facing many students, including those from target groups identified in the National Plan for Equity of Access to Higher Education, as they commence or return to higher education.
Once-off COVID-19 Contingency Fund
In order to enhance the delivery of access and support services for vulnerable students from target groups, €1.9 million has been allocated to higher education institutions in the form of a Once-off COVID-19 Contingency Fund. The purpose of this funding is to support the continued delivery and growth of the equity of access objectives in the current environment. It is ringfenced for access services to assist them in responding to the emerging challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
COVID-19 grant to support disadvantaged students in accessing ICT devices
As part of the package of COVID-19 supports for higher education institutions, €10 million of capital funding has been allocated to a once-off COVID-19 grant to support disadvantaged students in accessing ICT devices. This funding is intended to address concerns regarding the digital divide for disadvantaged students in the context of the shift to online and blended models of learning. Further information in relation to this scheme is available from the access or student services offices in higher education institutions.