Europe

Irish university post-Brexit fees questioned

Trinity College Dublin
Image caption Trinity College Dublin charges non-EU students £15,000 a year for many of its courses.

Northern Irish students should not have to pay more to attend universities in the Republic after Brexit, an Irish opposition politician has argued.

There should be a guarantee that students from NI will not have to pay non-EU fees when the UK leaves the EU, said Fianna Fáil's Thomas Byrne.

The Republic's student contribution fee is currently capped at 3,000 euros (£2,500) a year for EU students.

But non-EU students currently pay much higher tuition fees in the country.

40,000 euros per year?

For instance, University College Dublin and Trinity College Dublin charge yearly fees of around 18,000 euros for many undergraduate courses.

Some medical degrees can attract much higher fees, of around 40,000 euros per year.

Brexit was causing a great deal of worry for students and their families, said Mr Byrne, Fianna Fáil's education spokesman.

"The minister for education and the government need to act on this and provide certainty on the issue of fees for Northern students coming south," he said.

"They should be treated the same as they are today.

"Non-EU fees are charged at a significantly higher rate than EU fees and will undoubtedly place a significant financial barrier in the path of students from Northern Ireland wishing to study south of the border."

"This would fly in the face of the letter and spirit of our various peace deals and the last two decades of cross-border work."

Doubts for 2019 starters

Students from the UK - including those from Northern Ireland - who begin university courses in the Republic of Ireland in September 2017 will not have to pay non-EU fees for the duration of their course.

The same guarantee is likely to apply to students beginning their courses in September 2018.

However, it is currently unclear which level of fees UK students who begin to study in the Republic in 2019 will have to pay.

According to figures supplied by the Republic's Higher Education Authority, only 0.4% of full-time students were from NI in 2015/16, a total of 791 students.

This is despite the fact that university undergraduate tuition fees in the Republic are currently lower at 3,000 euros a year compared to £3,805 in NI.

However, there has been a recent rise in the number of Northern Irish students applying to some universities in the Republic.

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