University fees will not rise during the lifetime of this Government, Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said.
Irish students currently face annual fees of up to €3,000 to attend college, a rate that is among the highest in Europe.
Mr Martin said students have been hit hard by the pandemic and his Government does not intend to increase the cost of further education over the next four years.
Additional support is also being considered for lower income students.
Speaking to reporters, Mr Martin said: “We don’t envisage increasing them at all.
“I think the students have been through a very rough time in respect of their third level education.
“Particularly the first years, who have had a difficult Leaving Cert of course this year.
“We’re also conscious of the additional costs in terms of living away from home in a further city or town, and the cost of that is quite significant over the last few years.”
The Taoiseach said more support is needed for less well off students.
The Government also wants to expand the number of courses on offer to help younger people return to work as the economy improves after the pandemic.
He said: “We will actually be looking at how we increase supports for low-income students, in terms of maintenance grant schemes.
“This year we concentrated quite substantial moneys in terms of additional placements, not just in further education but in apprenticeships, to enable young people to be ready for any rebound in the economy which may arise.”
A recent report by the Higher Education Authority found Irish third level students are twice as likely to be from affluent backgrounds than disadvantaged ones.
It found 20 per cent of students are from the most affluent parts of the country compared to just 10 per cent from the most disadvantaged.