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Tynwald approval sought for Student Awards Regulations 28 February 2008

THE Department of Education’s proposals for changes to the Student Awards Regulations for the academic year 2008/09 will go before the March sitting of Tynwald for approval.

The Department currently pays course fees for almost 1,500 students on higher education courses, nearly 1,300 of them in the UK and the remainder studying at the Isle of Man College or the International Business School or on distance learning courses. Around a third of those students also receive additional, means-tested, assistance.

Education Minister Anne Craine MHK said the support for Island students provided by the £12.5 million package was arguably the most generous and inclusive available anywhere in the British Isles.

Among improvements to the Education (Student Awards) Regulations suggested for the year ahead are that:

• The upper age limit for the receipt of an award rises from 50 to 60. Students in that age bracket will be considered for assistance towards course fees on a means-tested basis provided courses are linked to employment and provided the costs would not be expected to be borne by an employer.

• There is greater discretion over what may be interpreted as a gap year to take into account students participating in projects exceeding a year, such as charity assignments.

• The Department may waive the requirement for A-levels, normally needed be eligible for assistance towards higher education courses in the Isle of Man. Applicants will be required to submit a business case for consideration by the Department that has an endorsement from either the Principal of the Isle of Man College or the Director of the International Business School.

• A further review stage is added to the appeals procedure prior to appeals being considered by the Appeals Panel, which is chaired by Department Member Bill Henderson MHK.

An extra £2 million was awarded to the Department of Education in the Isle of Man Government’s 2008/2009 Budget to allow for inflation, top-up fees charged by UK universities and an increase in the number of students receiving awards.

Mrs Craine said that following the Budget, the Department was in a position to continue support for students in higher education and to extend the provision in some areas.

She said:

‘The consultation on student awards, which concluded in January, was very useful. It provided information for the development of the Department’s policy on support for higher education and as a result a number of improvements have been included in the 2008 Regulations to be considered by Tynwald.
‘I am particularly pleased that we have extended the age limit for support to 60. Over the last 10 years, this limit has been increased in stages from an original limit of 30 years. It provides support by way of means-tested fees for this additional age group for full, part-time and distance learning courses both in the Isle of Man and in the UK.’

The Minister continued:

‘The consultation indicated a lack of awareness in some quarters of the support, introduced last year, available for part-time and distance learning courses. Means-tested support of up to £2,500 per annum is available for part-time courses on the Island and for distance learning courses such as those from the Open University.
'Also in response to the consultation, the regulations include a provision for students who do not hold the necessary minimum qualifications to undertake a degree course. The occasions on which the Department has been approached for support of this nature are rare and normally involve mature students.
'The Regulations also introduce some flexibility for students on a gap year who may be involved in activities such as charitable or ecological projects, which extended beyond one year.’

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