Student fees frozen for NI undergraduates in Republic

Students from Northern Ireland starting university in the Republic of Ireland in 2019 will not have to pay higher tuition fees.

Irish Minister for Education and Skills Joe McHugh TD made the announcement on Friday.

There had been fears that Northern Irish applicants would be treated as non-EU students after Brexit.

Non-EU students pay much higher fees than students from the Republic and the rest of the EU.

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Currently, Northern Irish undergraduate students in the Republic pay a “student contribution” fee of €3,000 (£2,700) a year towards their tuition, the same as their counterparts from the Republic of Ireland and the rest of the EU.

The majority receive a student loan to cover that charge.

Non-EU students in the Republic pay substantially higher fees – in many cases around €10,000 to €15,000 more per year.

Mr McHugh said the current arrangements for students from Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK would remain in place in 2019/20 for new entrants to university.

That means they will continue to pay the same tuition fees as students from the Republic of Ireland and the EU.

Those fee arrangements will be maintained for the entire duration of their course.

‘Provides certainty’

“I am pleased to be able to announce this decision at this time,” Mr McHugh said.

“It provides certainty for prospective students applying before the Central Applications Office closing date of 1 February.”

Minister for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O’Connor TD said the announcement was part of the government’s contingency action plan for Brexit.

“My officials are working on amendments to the Student Support Act 2011,” she said.

“These amendments will ensure that eligible Irish and UK students continue to receive grant supports for the 2019/20 academic year.”

The minister also confirmed that Irish and EU students who wish to enrol at university in Northern Ireland or the rest of the UK in 2019/20 would be able to apply for grants from Student Universal Support Ireland as normal.

Universities UK had previously confirmed that there would be no change to the tuition fees paid students from the Republic of Ireland and the rest of the EU starting university in Northern Ireland or the rest of the UK in 2019/20.

That means students from the Republic starting undergraduate courses at Queen’s University Belfast or Ulster University in 2019 will pay £4,275 a year in tuition fees, the same as their Northern Irish counterparts.

However, as the Republic of Ireland’s fee arrangements are set to be reviewed before the 2020/21 academic year the position for students wishing to begin university in 2020 are still unclear.