Budget 2021 provides limited financial assistance for third level students

Image Credit: Dominic Daly

The Irish budget for the coming year was announced on the 13th of October. There have been some changes to the third-level fee system, as well as an increase in financial assistance for students, with a one-time payment worth €250.

However, Lorna Fitzpatrick, the President of the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) said the government was ignoring the financial pressures caused by the high fees, and that they were not going far enough to support students, especially with the added pressure caused by the pandemic.

Programmes and grants have been provided with extra funding, which will be going to the beneficiaries of the 1916 bursary and to provide more places for government-subsidised courses like Springboard. There is also expected to be an investment in support for youth employment, making it easier for young people to find work. The income thresholds for those receiving grants will increase, from around 30,000 euros to just over 50,000 euros. This means more students will fall into the bracket and be able to benefit.

There will be a hefty increase in fees for postgraduate students of around 75%. Their fees will go from 2,000 euros to 3,500 euros. However, there does not seem to be any changes planned for other degrees.

With third-level education having moved mostly online, there has been an investment in the National Broadband Plan, to provide high-speed broadband around the country. Students will hopefully be able to feel the benefits of this increase in funding, improvements in public transport, and increased availability in job opportunities by the beginning of next semester. 

This budget is of particular importance for those worried about how the government is preparing for the 1st January when Brexit becomes official, as well as how the State is planning to recover from the losses caused by the coronavirus and the subsequent lockdowns. To counteract the issues created by Covid-19 the government is focussing on subsidising lost wages, providing more PPE (personal protective equipment) and dedicating a part of the Budget to improving public transport.

On the topic of Brexit, as it looks increasingly like the EU and the UK are unlikely to reach a deal by the end of the negotiation period, the Budget seems to have made concessions for changes in border checks for food, as well as businesses affected by the loss of the UK as a market. There is also expected to be a large investment in cross-border trade and investment. VAT for tourism and entertainment is expected to decrease, in order to incentivise people to go out and spend their money in struggling businesses.