The college deferral rate is “very much in line” with previous years, despite the housing crisis, according to Simon Harris.
The Minister for Higher Education was speaking after universities reported an increased in deferral application, with a lack of accommodation among the key reasons cited by students.
The Irish Independent reports that Trinity college has seen 20% rise in deferrals, with 10% citing housing as part of their reason for seeking a deferral.
Meanwhile the University of Galway said nearly 300 students have opted to defer – an 11% increase on last year. It said 92 cited accommodation as the issue.
On The Pat Kenny Show this morning, Minister Harris said there are currently 1,404 rooms available to students under the Rent-a-Room scheme.
“We need to delve into these figures a little bit more because every year, on average, somewhere between 6% and 9% of students defer for a whole variety of reasons,” he said.
“We saw the Leaving Cert results and the CAO offers coming out this year and the acceptance rate - the number of students taking up their offer - was in line with last year as well.
“I always pay very close attention to the deferral rate but they seem to be very much in line with previous years; however, let me not in any way dismiss that student accommodation is a real live issue for people right at this moment.”
The minister said he fully accepts that we need to “massively increase supply of student accommodation” – but in the meantime, there are rooms available under the Rent-a-Room scheme.
He said 1,404 rooms are currently available through student portals under the scheme and read out figures from several specific colleges.
- DCU: 382 rooms available
- Maynooth: 141 rooms available
- TU Dublin: 160 rooms available
- Southeast Technical University: 22 rooms available
- Atlantic Technical University: 51 rooms available
- University of Galway: 79 rooms available
“I am not suggesting it is a perfect system but I do know it is a system that is finding solutions for thousands of students as we speak,” said Minister Harris.
“When I hear of students saying I can’t find anywhere on Daft or these other websites, I accept that, but I also say go to the student portal website and there is assistance there.”
He insisted that the Government is engaging extensively with colleges and will soon invest taxpayers’ money into building proper student accommodation for the first time.
“I fully accept that housing is an issue but the figures available to me suggest that the deferral rate overall in higher education is in line with previous years,” he said.
“We want to get extremely serious about building affordable on-campus student accommodation.
“I would like to explain to people what that means. It means that today there are colleges - five in particular - that have planning permission to build student accommodation.
“They have decided not to proceed with that - I don’t mean that ins judgemental way, they decided it wasn’t viable to proceed with that.
He said the Government investment would help college move forward with their plans.
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