THIRD level institutions in Limerick are to benefit from more than €1.5 million in funding to help students access laptops and other devices for online learning Limerick Fine Gael TD, Kieran O’Donnell has said.
The devices will be distributed through targeted lending schemes run by the institutions, with the higher education sector being overseen by Student Access Offices and further education and training sector being overseen by the Education and Training Board (ETB) management.
Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris TD has confirmed the funding of €1,552,462 for students attending Limerick-based third level institutions as part of a new fund for student devices worth €15 million.
The fund is part of a larger €168 million package to help further and higher education sectors deal with the impacts of Covid-19.
Limerick Third Level Institutions Funding:
Minister Harris said the pandemic which has disrupted aspects of many lives, and for students in third-level education “it has resulted in a changed college experience”.
“This new academic year will see students attending courses online and they will need access to devices to cope with this challenge. This investment will allow us to help 16,700 students nationwide access laptops and will ensure they can keep up to date with their studies,” said the Minister.
It is also hoped the funding will “go some way to bridging the digital divide, support students and ensure equality of access to education”.
The €168 million funding package includes an additional €10million for access supports which complements the IT support package.
Students in higher education institutions experiencing exceptional financial need can apply for support via their local access office.
Minister Harris added the focus will be on “ensuring disadvantaged students have access to the devices”.
He said, “But we must also recognise many students and their families have fallen on hard times as a result of Covid. We must ensure they don’t fall behind in their studies and ensure they can access this support fund also.
“We still have significant work to do to address the digital divide in Ireland but this will go some of the way to doing that.”
The grant funding for the devices will be provided to Higher Education Institutions through the Higher Education Authority (HEA) and to Education and Training Boards through SOLAS. The bulk order of laptops was organised by HEAnet, which provides internet connectivity and ICT services to education bodies throughout Ireland.