The government has confirmed that existing fee arrangements will be maintained for Irish students enrolling in UK universities in 2020/21, amid ongoing uncertainty surrounding Brexit’s implications.
UK students studying in Ireland will also continue to pay the current fee of €3,000 for at least another year – the same fee as Irish students.
Irish students enrolling in UK universities will still be able to avail of SUSI grants, the government also announced, as part of an agreement between the UK and Irish governments in order to allow students to move between countries for their education.
It’s not clear if the arrangement will stretch beyond 2020/21, but it’s likely to provide reassurance to students ahead of the CAO deadline on February 1st.
In a press statement, Minister for Education Joe McHugh said the move “will give students from Britain and Northern Ireland time to plan their education options”.
“I am determined”, he added, “that this should grow and serve to remind us all of our shared respect and understanding. I can assure prospective students from Britain and Northern Ireland that their contribution to our higher education institutions will always be very welcome”.
Minister for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O’Connor said: “Student grants will be maintained for Irish and EU students heading to the UK to pursue their studies on approved courses for 2020/ 2021.”
“I am also pleased to confirm for British citizens that access to the SUSI scheme will continue”, she said. “Students from Britain and Northern Ireland will also continue to avail of access to the free fees initiative subject to compliance with the eligibility criteria.”
The announcement comes amid ongoing uncertainty for students about future arrangements on higher education in the aftermath of Brexit. Irish universities haven’t escaped the effects of this instability, with Trinity reporting a 20 per cent drop in CAO applications from students in Northern Ireland in both 2018 and 2019.
In April 2019, speaking at the Scholars’ Dinner, Provost Patrick Prendergast expressed concerns about Brexit and how it affects Trinity’s relationship with the UK, calling it a “highly regrettable situation”.
He added that “universities don’t operate in isolation and they never did… politics has [sic] always affected academia”.
In November 2018, Trinity published an open letter in the UK’s Financial Times expressing regret at the potential damage to Irish universities that Brexit could bring, particularly the possibility of a hard border on the island of Ireland.
The letter stated that “education and culture are perhaps the most important of all ‘goods and services’ that a frictionless border enables”.