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Fees for part time third level courses must be abolished - Doherty

30 April, 2008

Speaking after meeting members of the Union of Students in Ireland today Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson Senator Pearse Doherty called on Education Minister Mary Hanafin to abolish fees for all part time third level courses. Senator Doherty also called for an increase in funding for third level education and for the establishment of a Student Accommodation Taskforce.

He said, "The recently published Student Support Bill makes absolutely no reference to part-time students of which there are 37,000 in the State. Minister for Education Mary Hanafin has stated that €35million will be made available over the lifetime of the Government to support part-time students however what is actually required is in the region of €200million. Sinn Féin however, sees no difference between full and part-time students and do not see why one should be forced to pay fees and the other not.

"Part-time fees pose a considerable obstacle for adult learners wishing to access third level education especially for low income and single parents. In addition, many members of the workforce most in need of further education opportunities, for example those employed in the building and construction sector, often do not qualify for financial supports. Fees for all part-time courses must be removed.

"Student accommodation continues to cause massive problems for those studying away from home particularly in Dublin. Students are often forced to take out a loan or take on a part-time job which causes great damage to their studies and many have to endure substandard accommodation.

"Minister Hanafin, in response to a Sinn Féin Parliamentary Question, said that her department would fund a joint study with the Department of Environment on the establishment of a Student Accommodation Taskforce. This would be a welcome development in tackling the student accommodation crisis but it should be established and the recommendations acted upon as a matter of urgency.

"The crisis with student accommodation and the high rents have rendered the current grants scheme a failure as it caters only for the day-to-day costs of pursuing further education. It fails to take into consideration the often huge costs of course equipment, massive rents and also childcare - something which too often represents a major barrier to access and participation, particularly for mature students, lower income groups and single parents.

"The Student Support Bill, which is currently being debated in the Dáil, has the potential to address the concerns of third level students. However I would urge the Government to take on board the concerns of the USI, of Sinn Féin and of others to ensure that the serious problems facing students can be adequately addressed in the Bill." ENDS

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