Thursday, 8 February 2001
Dáil Eireann Debate
143. Mr. N. Ahern asked the Minister for Education and Science the assistance towards third level fees which is available in the form of tax relief for a student who is based in Dublin and doing a degree course in Belfast or for her parents; and if the changes announced in the budget will assist in such cases. [3517/01]
Minister for Education and Science (Dr. Woods): The third level student support schemes, administered by the local authorities and the vocational education committees under the aegis of my Department, offer financial assistance to eligible students attending approved third level courses. An approved course for the purpose of the schemes means a full-time undergraduate course of not less than two years' duration and a full time postgraduate course of not less than one years' duration, pursued in an approved institution.
Students from this State, who are attending undergraduate courses in Northern Ireland, can apply for maintenance grants in respect of approved courses at higher national diploma level or higher, which are pursued in colleges approved for the purpose of either the higher education grants scheme or the vocational education committees' scholarship scheme. Grants are not payable in respect of tuition fees paid at undergraduate level. However, since the introduction, in 1998, of undergraduate tuition fees in Northern Ireland, students from this State can apply to the relevant education and library board for grant assistance towards their undergraduate tuition fees.
Students pursuing approved postgraduate courses in Northern Ireland can apply for assistance under the higher education grants scheme and the vocational education committees' scholarship scheme in respect of maintenance grants and grants in respect of the cost of their tuition fees, subject to a maximum fee limit, which is currently £3,064.
In relation to the value of the grant, the practice in recent years has been to increase the level of maintenance grants annually at least in line with inflation. Last June, in line with this policy, I announced increases of 5% in the rates of maintenance grant. The reference value for inflation was the annual percentage increase in the CPI to mid-February 2000. The increase of 5% in grant rates for 2000-01 was higher than the reference value, which was 4.3%. The current rate of the higher, non-adjacent maintenance grant is £1,775.
In relation to income limits, my approach has been to follow the practice of recent years and increase the reckonable income limits in line with movements in the average industrial wage in the previous year. I approved an increase of 5% in the reckonable income limits for the 2000-2001 academic year. This exceeded the increase in the average industrial wage for the period March 1998 to March 1999, which was 4.5%. I also increased by 5% the allowance by which the income limits may be increased in respect of other family members pursuing a course of study.
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