The Economy Minister said: “I am acutely aware that students in local higher education institutions have experienced significant disruption since the onset of the pandemic and that this continues to have an impact.

“I am pleased to announce that I have secured £22million from the Executive to fund a one-off discretionary payment of £500 to all students from the UK and EU who are in full time higher education in Northern Ireland, whether that is in a university or further education college setting.”

Within the support package, the minister has also allocated £8.5 million to address student financial hardship, digital poverty and to support students unions with mental health provision as well as £4.1 million for the provision of making university campuses safer and an additional £3.1 million to compensate universities for rental pauses.

Belfast Live has reported that funding is also included within this package to specifically equip students with providing mental health and wellbeing support.

Welcoming the decision was NUS-USI President Ellen Fearon who said: “This is a very welcome announcement after a very difficult year for students. Students have struggled throughout the pandemic facing financial stress, isolation, academic pressures, housing problems, additional caring responsibilities and digital inequality. It is imperative that the £500 Covid disruption grant is available to students as soon as possible”.

“This significant win comes after months of campaigning with and for our Students’ Unions and student campaigners. We’ve seen almost £40 million to support students this week”.

Also praising the move was SDLP Foyle MLA, Sinéad McLaughlin who also campaigned for the introduction of a student support grant from the Economy Minister in response to the pandemic.

Taking to Twitter, Ms McLaughlin said she is “delighted” that the minister has listened to student needs. “Today’s announcement of a Covid support package for students is greatly welcome”.

Similarly to the statement from the NUS-USI President, Sinéad McLaughlin who is the MLA for Ulster University’s Magee campus, said: “Unfortunately this does not extent to students from Northern Ireland, that are studying in England, Scotland and Wales. So we still have much more work to do.”