Education Minister faces questions over “insane” Gaeltacht fees for students

By Sarah Slevin

A Galway TD has confirmed that parliamentary questions have been submitted to the Education Minister regarding “insane” Gaeltacht fees for Hibernia students.

Last week, students studying with Hibernia College, a private college for primary teacher training, were outraged to hear they must pay €650 for a two-week online Gaeltacht course.

Pre-Covid, the course offered a fully immersive experience including food and accommodation and costed €750 for the two weeks.

The price was agreed on by the Department of Education (DES) and a sub-committee group known as ‘CONCOS’ (Comhchoiste Náisiúnta na gColáistí Samhraidh). ‘CONCOS’ is the Joint National Committee of Summer Colleges and the developers of the online course.

In a statement, Hibernia College have said they were not consulted on the price.

“We find it disconcerting that the DES and CONCOS agreed to an average price being set across the Gaeltacht providers, which is binding, on our students.”

Photo by Shutterstock

The students have sent letters outlining the situation to their local TDs. Letters were also sent to Education Minister Norma Foley, Higher Education Minister Simon Harris and Gaeltacht Minister Catherine Martin.

Christina Glynn, 27, a student and class representative based in Spiddal, sent the letter to a number of Galway TDs to express her shock at hearing of the proposed fees.

“They’re not going to get away with holding a bill of €975 over the heads of final year students just so we can graduate,” she said.

Audio from Christina Glynn

Final year students this year must complete three weeks of the course and Ms Glynn said that the cost is not justified.

“We’re paying the bones of a thousand euro to go to the Gaeltacht online, in the midst of a global pandemic and we’ll be sitting at home and it’ll just be zoom,” she said.

An assistant to TD Catherine Connolly confirmed that two parliamentary questions were being asked of Minister Foley.

They asked the Minister about “her plans for making this more affordable for students in both public and private colleges” and to make a statement on the matter.

There was also a question submitted in relation to extending grants so they would be available to “trainee teachers in private colleges, such as Hibernia College”.

As it stands, students in the private college cannot avail of any grants.

Hibernia have said on this, “We have consistently lobbied the DES since last November asking for consideration for the grant for our students.”

Although the students understand the choice they have made, they still demand to know where the money is going.

“They need to tell us what we’re paying for and why it’s only a hundred euro less to spend two weeks at home instead of two weeks in the Gaeltacht,” Ms Glynn said.

Ms Glynn said that when they asked ‘CONCOS’ for a breakdown of where the money was going, they said it was to cover software.

Hibernia then offered the sub-committee the use of their own software, which Ms Glynn said they refused.

Other education news: Relief as special education students return to school

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