Dáil Éireann - Volume 500 - 17 February, 1999

Written Answers. - Third Level Fees.

163. Mrs. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Education and Science if returning emigrants whose children have secured a place in a univer[1261] sity and who apply for a grant from their local authority can qualify for this grant under the normal means test procedure; if these people qualify for free or reduced cost third level fees; if not, the criteria which applies to these people in the case of local authority grants and fees; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4530/99]

Minister for Education and Science (Mr. Martin): Under the free fees initiative, tuition fees are payable in respect of eligible EU nationals who have been ordinarily resident in an EU member state for at least three of the five years preceding entry to their third level course. I would point out to the Deputy that this condition applies equally to all EU nationals, including Irish nationals, in accordance with the judgment of the European Court of Justice that access to vocational training must apply equally to all EU nationals. I understand that similar residency requirements operate in the other EU member states.

The removal of this residency condition for Irish nationals would have to apply to EU nationals generally and could have significant resource implications for the Exchequer. The matter has been raised by a number of Deputies and I have asked my officials to re-examine the issue and report to me in due course.

To be eligible for a maintenance grant under the terms of the student support schemes a candidate must fulfil conditions as to residence, age, academic attainments, means and nationality. To fulfil the residency requirement a candidate's parents, or, in the case of an independent mature candidate, the candidate herself/himself, shall have been resident in the administrative area of the local authority from the 1 October 1997. The local authority has discretion to waive this requirement in exceptional circumstances.

Candidates who are EU nationals and who do not satisfy the residency requirements under the free fees initiative are eligible to apply for a means tested fees only grant in respect of approved courses in the Republic of Ireland, provided they have been ordinarily resident, for a purpose other than wholly or mainly to receive full-time education, in an EU member state from 1 October of the year prior to entry to college.