Up to 10,000 third level students are to get financial support to buy laptops, tablets and other tools for online learning, following a decision by the Cabinet last night.

Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris secured agreement for a €160 million funding package to help meet the additional costs to the third level sector associated with the Covid-19 pandemic.

With many students preparing a return in September, Mr Harris will set out plans for the safe operation of campuses, including funding to cover the costs incurred by third level institutions for health protection measures.

But college life is unlikely to be the same for some time to come, with an increase in modules or courses being taught online.

Mr Harris secured approval from Cabinet for a €15m funding package to help with online learning that could assist 10,000 students access laptops, tablets and internet connectivity.

Some €3m will be made available for mental health supports and a further €16m will be made available to double the student assistance fund at a time when many young people have lost their part-time jobs, opportunities through the J1 Visa scheme or other ways of earning money.

The details of the funding are as follows:

  • €14m will be provided to institutions to recognise the personal protective equipment they provided
  • €34m will be invested in online
  • €48m will be granted to deal with disruption to research
  • €1.2m will be provided for additional research
  • €15m will be granted for students to access technology such as laptops
  • €3m will earmarked for student mental health and well-being
  • The student assistance fund will be doubled from €8m to €16m
  • There will be an additional €2m funding for students with disabilities