By Cate McCurry, PA
The Higher Education Minister has claimed that the Government will go beyond the target of helping construct 4,500 student beds over the next few years.
The State is to subsidise thousands of student accommodation beds in a bid to plug the shortage of student housing across the country.
Simon Harris initially set a target of helping to fund the construction of 4,500 student beds through a new government strategy, however only 700 places have been approved in Maynooth, Limerick and Galway.
Speaking on Tuesday, Mr Harris said his department is still engaging with Dublin City University (DCU) and University College Dublin (UCD) about future plans.
Mr Harris rejected suggestions he was “over-ambitious” about the plan.
“We’re going to hit the 4,500 target and we’re going to go beyond that and I’ll tell you how,” Mr Harris said.
“We have five universities in Ireland that have full planning permission today. Maynooth, Galway, Limerick, UCD and DCU.
“Last week, we got three of them over the line, Maynooth, Limerick and Galway – that’s 700. We’re still intensively engaging with DCU and UCD.
“They haven’t pulled out of engaging with us. What they had announced before this policy was that they wouldn’t be able to proceed. We’re now engaging very intensively with them and DCU to try and put a similar model in place.
“But we’re actually going to go further than the ones that have planning permission. The really exciting thing last week wasn’t the 700 (beds), it was actually that for the first time in the history of the State, we’re spending money on building student accommodation, taxpayers’ money, and the second thing was it was a million euro given to the technological universities.
“Never before (have they) been able to build any student accommodation. I was in Tipperary yesterday, and it means the Technological University of the Shannon can now plan for student accommodation in Thurles, in Clonmel, in Athlone, Castlebar and Sligo.
“I’m extremely ambitious in this area. I wasn’t waiting to get the full 4,500 over the line, we’re moving ahead with the 700 but there’s a lot more to come.
“They’re (UCD) very much are around the table.
“They made a decision to pause their development because it wasn’t viable. The UCD and DCU projects are much bigger in scale and we need to make sure we comply with state aid rules.
“We may need to develop a new scheme and seek European Commission approval under state aid rules.
“But I am very confident we can get the UCD and the DCU projects but I actually believe beyond that we’ll get other projects moving in the regions as well.
“There was a very big shift in student accommodation policy and for the first time now the State is open for business in terms of providing money to get projects off the ground.”
Minister Harris announced next phase of proposal development for Tipperary FET College of the Future today at Further Education and Training Centre, Clonmel. The minister also visited Technological University of the Shannon to announce next phase of a connected campus in Thurles. pic.twitter.com/M5VVN6tUlv
— Department of Further and Higher Education (@DeptofFHed) December 5, 2022
He said construction on the 700 student beds will begin next year and they are expected to be available to students in 2024.
He said there is other student accommodation available in the meantime.
Mr Harris said there are around 674 beds in Galway currently under construction which are due to be handed over to the university in January and will be occupied by students in the next college year.
He made the comments as he confirmed a change to the college entry process which will allow students to get into degree courses without the CAO points.
Students will be able to go to a college of further education before finishing their degree at a university.
Mr Harris said it is an “alternative route” into degree-level education and will “transform the educational landscape”.