Under new arrangements, the State will pay for the lodging of 500 Irish college students studying in EU countries who have been added to the obligatory hotel quarantine list. The decision to include five EU member states on the quarantine list – Austria, Belgium, France, Italy, and Luxembourg – has caused concern in higher education due to the costs that returning Irish students would face. However, Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris is negotiating with the Higher Education Authority on a €1 million programme to offset the cost of obligatory hotel quarantine for Erasmus students returning to Ireland.
A spokesperson added, “Minister Harris can confirm an agreement has been reached to do this and further details will be provided over the coming days.” It is estimated that approximately 1,000 Irish students are enrolled in Erasmus programmes in different countries within the EU, with half of them are residing in the five EU countries on the compulsory quarantine list. The cost of covering these hotel expenses is likely to be in the range of one million euros. A 12-night stay in a mandatory hotel quarantine costs €1,875.
The State is likely to pay for these students’ hotel quarantine bills on the grounds that the Government sponsors all Erasmus programmes, including travel and other extra expenses. As a result, students studying outside of the Erasmus programme are unable to gain in the same way. Universities and student leaders have expressed outrage in recent days about the expenses that Irish students wishing to return from countries on the quarantine list face.
They are also concerned about the effect mandatory hotel quarantine would have on the number of foreign students who want to study in Ireland. Though there was a 30-40% drop in foreign students coming to Ireland in the current academic year in many schools, the drop was not as serious as many predicted.