Wednesday, 30 May 2001
Dáil Eireann Debate
237. Noel Ahern asked the Minister for Education and Science if, regarding the case of third level students who must go abroad for one year of their course, he will state the covenants or tax relief measures available to parents in respect of the £5,000-£10,000 expense in relation to accommodation, food and living expenses, and travel and educational expenses; if measures in the last budget will help in relation to amalgamatory educational reliefs; if an improved maintenance grant or improved eligibility grant will be given to such parents; and if he will make a statement on general third level maintenance grants. [16318/01]
–the Finance Act, 1995, provided for tax relief on tuition fees paid by students who are attending approved full-time undergraduate courses of at least two years duration at approved private third level colleges;
–the Finance Act, 1996, as amended by the Finance Act, 1997, provided for tax relief for tuition fees paid in respect of approved part-time undergraduate courses of at least two years duration at colleges approved for the higher education grants scheme and at approved private third level colleges;
–the Finance Act, 2000, introduced tax relief at the standard rate for full-time and part-time post-graduate courses in publicly funded and private colleges in Ireland and publicly funded colleges in other EU member states.
–the Finance Act, 2001, inserts a new section into the Taxes Consolidation Act, 1997 to provide for the amalgamation of the existing four tax reliefs for third level education fees: an extension of the reliefs by removing the restrictions for repeat years on individuals undertaking more than one course on individuals already holding a third level qualification and in relation to the exclusion of certain courses  in medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine and teacher training.
The reliefs are also being extended for postgraduate fees paid for third level education in private and publicly funded third level colleges in non-EU countries. Tax relief for undergraduate fees will also now be available in EU countries for duly accredited private third level colleges. Under these provisions, tax relief is available at the standard rate. The maximum amount of fees that can be claimed under the above reliefs is £2,500 per annum.
Under the terms of the third level student support schemes, where grantholders are required to attend a foreign university as part of their approved course for a period of up to one year, a maintenance grant may continue to be paid where the period abroad does not affect the normal duration of the approved course. Where a maintenance grant is payable in respect of compulsory study abroad, the higher, non-adjacent rate of grant is payable for the duration of study abroad. Last November I announced the setting up a special project team to carry out a comprehensive review of every aspect of the maintenance grants, and other student supports, to ensure their relevance to the needs of present day third level students. This review will include the level of grants, the methods by which they are paid, eligibility and income limits accommodation needs, student support services, the most suitable paying agency, the provision of an appeals system, student loans and taxation measures.
Issues relating to the implementation of the team's recommendations will be addressed when its report has been completed. However, there are no plans at present to pay an enhanced maintenance grant rate to students who must go abroad for one year of their course.
238. Mr. G. Reynolds asked the Minister for Education and Science if there is any financial assistance available to a person (details supplied) in County Leitrim who is pursuing a degree in psychology. [16331/01]
Minister for Education and Science (Dr. Woods): The teacher fee refund scheme, which is funded by the Department and administered by the Marino Institute of Education, provides for payments to primary and post-primary teachers towards third level course and examination fees incurred by them in the successful completion of courses approved by the Department and school authorities. Refunds are made in accordance with the provisions of the scheme which are set out in a Department circular. A copy of the circular and application form which issued for the last round of refunds is being sent to the person concerned for her information; the next round of refunds will be governed by a circular to be issued to all schools in the coming autumn.
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