Thursday, 4 June 1998
Dáil Éireann Debate
235. Mr. O'Shea asked the Minister for Education and Science the proposals, if any, he has to set up a central grants authority to replace the localised system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13295/98]
Minister for Education and Science (Mr. Martin): I would like to clarify for the Deputy that I have not proposed the establishment of a new central agency to pay grants to third level students. I am engaged in an ongoing review of all aspects of higher education grants and in this context, I am considering the administrative arrangements for the scheme. The report of the advisory committee on third level student support, which was published in February 1995, found the administrative arrangements to be fragmented, cumbersome and very confusing for grant applicants. The advisory committee recommended that the processing of grant applications and payments be transferred to a central applications office.
I accept that the current administration of the student support schemes must be improved. Apart from reservations about the need for a new body I have an open mind as to what the best and most appropriate options are for a new centralised system. In August 1997 a joint working group involving officials from my Department and the Department of Social, Community and Family Affairs commenced an examination of various options for the future administration of the student support schemes including the case for and against transferring this activity to the Department of Social, Community and Family Affairs.
I have received the preliminary report of this working group and I am currently engaged in discussions with my colleague, the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs, regarding a more detailed review. This review would involve the participation of interested parties. I have previously indicated that no irrevocable decisions will be taken in relation to any future arrangements without appropriate consultation with all interested parties. At this stage, it is not possible to predict the outcome of the more detailed review.
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