About 500 Irish college students studying in EU countries which have been added to the mandatory hotel quarantine list are set to have their accommodation paid for by the State under new plans.
The move to add five EU member states - Austria, Belgium, France, Italy and Luxembourg - to the quarantine list has sparked alarm within higher education due to the costs facing returning Irish students.
However, Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris is working on a €1 million plan with the Higher Education Authority to ensure the cost of mandatory hotel quarantine for Erasmus students returning to Ireland can be covered, his spokeswoman said.
“Minister Harris can confirm agreement has been reached to do this and further details will be provided over the coming days,” she said.
She said many of the estimated are due back on a staggered basis between now August.
It is estimated that there are about 1,000 Irish students on Erasmus programmes across the EU, with half in the five EU countries on the mandatory quarantine list.
The cost of paying for these accommodation costs is likely to be in the region of euro1 million. The cost of mandatory hotel quarantine is euro1,875 for a 12-night stay.
The State is expected to pay hotel quarantine bills for these students on the basis that the Government funds all Erasmus programmes, including travel and some additional costs.
As a result, it is unlikely students studying outside the Erasmus programme will benefit in the same way.
In recent days universities and students’ representatives have voices concern at the costs facing Irish students seeking to return from countries on the quarantine list.
They have also expressed concern over the impact that mandatory hotel quarantine will have on the number of international students opting to study in Ireland.
While there was a decline in international students coming to Ireland in the current academic year of between 30 and 40 per cent in many colleges, the reduction was not as severe as many feared.
However, some university sources say the addition of quarantine rules could see these numbers fall further still.