Students: COVID-19 Study Disruption Payment Scheme

Oral Answers to Questions — Economy – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:30 pm on 7th June 2021.

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Photo of Sean Lynch Sean Lynch Sinn Féin 2:30 pm, 7th June 2021

T1. Mr Lynch asked the Minister for the Economy, who will know that, over the past year, students’ unions have been appealing to her to provide support to those students who have been excluded from receiving the COVID-19 study disruption grant, to give a commitment to including those students in any further money that not only do they deserve but need. (AQT 1381/17-22)

Photo of Diane Dodds Diane Dodds DUP

I presume that the Member is talking about the additional £500 that was given to students. We have looked at how that could be rolled out in other areas, but that has proved incredibly difficult to work with. Meanwhile, we have ensured that £22 million is spent on students who go to local institutions and that there is a significant level of funding for mental health and the other issues that students face. I have also instructed universities to make sure that their students are aware of the funds and how they can be drawn down. When I talk to local students, one of the criticisms that they level is that the funds are too opaque in the way in which they are treated by universities.

Students from here who go to university in London or anywhere else in Great Britain are also able to claim the hardship funds that are available in those institutions. Therefore, there is help, and I encourage students to avail themselves of it.

Photo of Sean Lynch Sean Lynch Sinn Féin

I thank the Minister for her answer. Minister, can you confirm that the 100 master's degree bursaries that you recently announced will be available for students seeking to study the Irish language and translation services?

Photo of Diane Dodds Diane Dodds DUP

There are no specific rules around the bursaries. I am absolutely delighted that I have been able to acknowledge Northern Ireland's centenary year by ensuring that 100 students are able to undertake a one-year master's degree and that each of those students will have their fees paid and be given an additional £10,000 of living expenses. That is important not just in acknowledging 100 years of Northern Ireland but in building the critical skills that are necessary to take Northern Ireland forward. I recently published my 10X vision for the Northern Ireland economy. A consultation is out on the skills that are required to grow that economy, and it is important to do that at every level in every community across Northern Ireland.