Dáil Éireann - Volume 291 - 24 June, 1976

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - University Scholarship System.

2. Mr. Wilson asked the Minister for Education if he has terminated the existing university scholarship system.

[1679] Minister for Education (Mr. Richard Burke): The existing university scholarship system has not been terminated. One segment of the system is being phased out. This segment, for which no means test applied, extended at its peak to only 3 per cent of all students in receipt of scholarship and grant assistance.

Mr. Wilson: Will the Minister state what segment he is referring to?

Mr. Richard Burke: The segment is usually referred to as the “Department of Education scholarships”.

Mr. Wilson: Does the Minister realise that in respect of a worker in receipt of unemployment benefit and who has a large family his son or daughter may be excluded from the enjoyment of a grant? These scholarships could have helped such students if they succeeded in getting into university. Does the Minister not regard it as a disgrace that he talked about the present difficulty budgetary position to justify putting an end to these scholarships?

Mr. Richard Burke: The scheme we are talking about was started for those people who did not come within the means test limits of the higher education grants scheme.

Mr. Wilson: Will the Minister please answer the question? Will he tell us how he can justify the removal of the possibility of the scholarship from someone who may be from a very poor family background on the plea that the present budgetary difficulties do not allow him to spend a few pounds on this scheme?

An Ceann Comhairle: I would ask the Deputy to avoid repetition.

Mr. Richard Burke: The Deputy misunderstands the situation.

Mr. Wilson: I do not. I know what I am talking about.

Mr. Richard Burke: I have told the Deputy that the scheme applies to those who did not come within the means test limits of the much wider higher education grants scheme. May [1680] I emphasise what I have said already in my reply, namely, that at its peak it represented only 3 per cent of the total scholarships? May I also emphasise the fact that the number of scholarships being awarded has increased substantially during the year, both in number and in the amount of money involved?

Mr. Wilson: Will the Minister state how many scholarships will be short in the universities this year because of his action?

Mr. Richard Burke: The number of awards in question is approximately 60.

Mr. Wilson: Does the Minister regard that as negligible?

Mr. Richard Burke: We are talking in terms of substantial four figure numbers.

Mr. Wilson: We are not talking about grants; we are talking about scholarships. As there is not at all that much money involved, will the Minister reconsider the position for the sake of the students?

Mr. Richard Burke: I will bear in mind what the Deputy has said but I would not hold out much hope that there will be a reversal of the decision.