Holly Cairns TD, Social Democrats spokesperson for Further and Higher Education, has called for targeted funding for colleges and universities to establish hubs or micro-satellite campuses which would enable rural students to complete courses online.

Holly said:

“One of the main barriers for students in rural Ireland is poor or non-existent broadband. With most courses involving blended learning and some courses and institutions going exclusively online, now more than ever it is essential that all students have access to broadband.

“In the long-term, colleges and universities need investment to establish new hubs or micro-satellite campuses to enable rural students to complete courses online. These would not only be important during the pandemic, but would also enable greater participation in general.

“Considerable accommodation and living costs are a barrier for some students. Mature students, part-time students and parents would benefit from the provision of local facilities.

“This year’s students will need targeted support, such as funding to use existing hubs like the Ludgate Hub in Skibbereen or Bantry Bay Works, which have to run on a commercial basis. Some of these facilities provide student rates, but a subsidy from the Department of Further and Higher Education would enable more people to avail of it and it would make a significant difference to so many.

“I welcome Minister Harris’s intention to work with HEA-Net on providing internet connectivity for education. However, I would like to see remote campuses supporting existing local hubs rather than competing with them.

“It is essential that the minister’s enthusiasm for my proposal in the Dáil today is matched with proper funding.

“Rural communities will be a long time waiting for broadband. In the meantime, we need infrastructure and schemes to support different types of students.”
September 9, 2020

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