Third level students in Westmeath will benefit from a new fund to help them access laptops and other devices, Minister Burke announces.

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris TD has confirmed the funding for Westmeath students 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.

Speaking today, Minister Burke said: “Covid-19 has disrupted many aspects of our lives. For students in third level, 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 qualifying students access laptops and will ensure they can keep up to date with their studies.

“It will also 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 €10 million 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.

The devices will be distributed through targeted lending schemes run by the institutions and will be overseen by Student Access Offices.

Minister Harris added: “The focus will be on ensuring disadvantaged students have access to the devices.

“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.

 

ENDS