The Minister for Further and Higher Education has said he expects the vaccine portal for 16 to 17-year-olds to open in "early August".

Simon Harris was discussing the reopening of third level at the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Education, Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science.

Minister Harris told TDs and Senators that he would like to see the HSE online portal open for 16 and 17-year-olds "as quickly as possible" as "many of them could end up being college students but also, we're seeing a particular spike in cases among that age group".

He added that "it would be great if, early in August, we could see the portal open for 16 and 17-year-olds and that is my expectation that that will happen".

During his appearance before the committee, Mr Harris reiterated his commitment to have all college students back on campus after the summer.

"All students will have an onsite college experience next year," he said.

"It may not be every lecture or workshop, the numbers in the library may need to be small and not all facilities will be opened to exactly the same way, just like things opened differently in towns and villages right across Ireland."

Mr Harris said that other aspects of college life will also open, such as clubs and societies.

Separately, Minister Harris told Sinn Féin's Rose Conway-Walsh that no student should be asked to pay several months' worth of rent upfront.

The committee heard that new protections, which came into effect this month, mean that upfront payments for rental properties are capped at two months' rent, which is a deposit and one month's rent in advance.

Students can also give 28 days' notice to end a tenancy.

Deputy Conway Walsh told the committee that she has been contacted by several students, particularly in the midwest, who are under pressure to pay significant upfront rent by accommodation providers.

Minister Harris said: "The law of the land is clear now since 16 July", adding that this practice shouldn't be happening.

Ms Conway Walsh said that there was a part of the legislation which stated that these new protections would only take effect on a tenancy created "not earlier than one month" after the passing of the legislation. She believed it was this line that allowed some providers to seek high upfront payments.

"I'm glad that you're sending out that message, because what you are saying is that it is illegal for accommodation providers to force students and families to pay multiple months upfront", Deputy Conway Walsh said.

"I'd take a very grim view of anybody not rigidly applying both the letter and the spirit of the legislation", Minister Harris said.