For the Government to commit to part-time and further education students receiving the same supports that would be available to full-time students in similar circumstances and make a hardship fund available for students who are studying part-time and in further education.
A number of support funds, including the Fund for Student with Disabilities, the Student Assistance Fund (SAF) and the Maintenance Grant are only available for students studying on a full-time basis in recognised Higher Education Institution. Part-time students are currently not able to avail of the same supports (despite the National Access strategy recommendations). The same restrictions apply to students in further education, of which there were 127,165 students enrolled in 2016 (SOLAS, 2016)
The participation rate of Students with Disabilities in part time courses (5.9%) is almost 5 times the participation rate in full time courses (1.3%). There are likely many complex reasons for this, but anecdotal evidence suggests that it is due to the lack of funding for disability supports in the part time sector (AHEAD, 2014). It is unfair to punish students who are trying to further themselves through studying but due to circumstance cannot commit to attend a higher education institution in a full-time capacity. A student who is deaf but is studying part-time cannot access the current fund for students with disabilities, and has no access to support for costly sign language interpretation, and thus it is impossible to compete at a level playing field with their peers.
- Costing: €7.5m with €5m allocated for the part-time education sector as a student assistance fund support and €2.5m allocated to students who are in further education as a hardship fund
- Responsibility: Department of Education and Skills