Sinn Féin spokesperson on Agriculture, Matt Carthy TD, has called on the Minister for Agriculture to take urgent steps to ensure that agricultural students can have access to the state support schemes provided to other students including those arising from Covid-19.
Teachta Carthy said:
“Agricultural students are unable to access financial supports such as the Student Hardship Fund. This is because Teagasc Agricultural Colleges fall under the remit of the Department of Agricultural, while all relevant support schemes fall under the Department of Higher Education.
“The exclusion of agricultural students from these vital supports is unacceptable and must be reversed.
“Students at the Teagasc colleges face the same challenges as all other students face, they deserve the same level of support.
“Weeks have passed since Minister McConalogue indicated to me that he was considering this matter but we have heard nothing since.
“I will not be letting this matter rest – the Minister for Agriculture needs to act now to ensure that students in our agricultural colleges have access to both the Student Hardship Fund on a permanent basis, and the Covid Payment Scheme”.
Parliamentary Question & Response; 3rd November 2020:
Matt Carthy TD
Deputy Matt Carthy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the steps that have been taken to resolve the exclusion of agricultural students from third level supports provided to other students during the pandemic; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32641/20]
Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine:
I am acutely conscious of the importance of supporting students during this very difficult and unprecedented period for our country. Teagasc agricultural colleges reopened in September with COVID measures implemented for the safety of learners and staff. Course delivery is based on a hybrid model with practical instruction being delivered face to face and theory being delivered online in line with developments elsewhere in the education sector.
It would appear that, as Teagasc fall under the remit of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Teagasc are not eligible for inclusion in funding from the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science generally or in the context of specific COVID 19 grants made available by that Department through the HEA and SOLAS to ‘higher and further education’ providers under their remit. That Department is at present considering how best to support 3rd level students with the €50m fund announced in Budget 2021.
However, my Department is currently making the case for the inclusion of Teagasc in the €50 million fund announced by the Department of Further and Higher Education to provide financial assistance to third level students in recognition of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on this group, and consequent increases in online learning.