A review of student grants and awards will take place to assess if any changes need to be made.

Education Minister Julie Edge made the announcement during the House of Keys sitting last week, saying that a wider review of options was ‘being considered in alignment with the Island Plan’ to support students, specifically those studying via online learning.

She said: ‘All changes are currently being evaluated and costed so that the department can progress amendments which align with the government plans.’

As it stands, a student wishing to undertake full-time higher education via distance learning is able to access a fee grant of up to £6,750 and a student wanting to do full-time higher education attending University College Isle of Man can also do this with a maintenance grant of £5,000.

Meanwhile, a student wishing to undertake full-time higher education at an off-island university is also able to access the £6,750 and a maintenance grant of up to £7,500 for UK universities, and £8,000 if attending a university in London or abroad.

A loan facility of up to £2,500 is also available for these students.

Arbory, Castletown and Malew MHK Jason Moorhouse said he was ‘disappointed’ at the level of support, saying that, following lockdown, more people were wanting to do distance learning.

He asked if the department was going to move a support mechanism forward, to which Ms Edge said that work was being done but amendments cannot be made to student awards application regulations for September 2022, which are currently open.

Rushen MHK Michelle Haywood added that during the last two years, due to the pandemic, students who had been approved for funding and had received maintenance grants ended up living in the island and being taught remotely anyway.

She said: ‘In essence, there is no difference between the education that they received and the students who would have opted for a distance learning course – only they got their maintenance fees?’

‘This is a completely unfair situation for those students who, for various reasons, cannot leave the island.

‘Actually, we are doing a disservice to our students who maybe are committed to staying in the island for family reasons or other things, by not helping them further their education. That is a valuable resource that we are missing out on.’

Ms Edge added: ‘We are now looking at all of that and trying to find a way forward that fits with the Island Plan to make sure lifelong learning is at the heart of the department’s processes.

‘We are going to review that and bring it forward.’

Mr Moorhouse felt the department should focus on the economic impact of retaining students in the island, to which Ms Edge agreed.

‘We need to look at ways of retaining our own here, so that they can continue on to further education,’ she said ‘I am happy to circulate an options map that the department has created and is now published, with regard to pathways for all – and that includes staying in the island. We also need to include employers, and training opportunities that people can get via employers.’