Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris TD, has announced up to 17,000 laptops will be distributed to third level students to assist with online learning.
IT Sligo has been awarded €263,885 to procure laptops for students to assist in remote learning. The grant is part of a €15m fund for student devices announced today as part of a €168m fund for the higher education sector.
The significant grant will help disadvantaged students to continue studies during the current pandemic restrictions that will require more remote learning for students.
This funding has already allowed higher education institutions and further education institutions place a bulk order of 16,700 devices for students across third level.
Speaking today, Minister Harris 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 mean many students will be attending courses online and will need access to devices. This investment will allow us to help 16,700 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.”
President of IT Sligo, Dr Brendan McCormack welcomed the announcement of the grant by Minister Harris;
“This grant will give our students an equal opportunity to study remotely. Many students have been severely hit by this pandemic not being able to find summer work and others have had to self isolate due to underlying health issues. Today’s announcement will help those who have been disadvantaged by this pandemic and we very much welcome Minister Harris announcement.”
The €168m 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. In the higher education sector, this will be overseen by Student Access Offices. In the further education and training sector, this will be overseen by the Education and Training Board (ETB) management.
Minister Harris added: “The focus will be on ensuring disadvantaged students will 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-19. 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.
Students will be advised by the Institute of the application process/ criteria in due course.