Irish students who begin courses in Northern Ireland and other parts of Britain later this year will still be eligible for maintenance grants, Government ministers said today.
But while Education Minister Joe McHugh and Higher Education Minister of State Mary Mitchell O’Connor also provided pre-Brexit assurances on fees for NI and UK students coming to courses here, uncertainty remains about what fees Irish students at UK colleges will face.
This question is one that has yet to be decided and will likely form part of ongoing deliberations on a Common Travel Area as details of Brexit are thrashed out at EU level.
The ministers said the Government is committed to working with EU partners and institutions and also with the British Government, to reach an outcome on the broader issues in the long term.
For now, however, they said that eligible Irish and EU nationals wishing to enrol on approved courses in the UK for the 2019/2020 academic year will be able to avail of grants from Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI).
Under the system’s rules, they will still have to meet criteria around residency and income thresholds as has always been the case.
In addition, they said, eligible UK students who enrol for third-level courses covered by the Government’s free tuitions and student grant schemes will be able to avail of those arrangements if they begin their studies next autumn.
Crucially, those arrangements would continue for the duration of their course, if they begin for this next academic year.
The position for the 2020/2021 academic year will be reviewed in advance, they said.
Ms Mitchell O’Connor said that Department of Education officials are working on the necessary amendments to laws governing SUSI grants to ensure that eligible Irish and UK students continue to receive grant supports for the next academic year.
More than 10,070 Irish students are currently at college in the UK, around 5,600 of them in undergraduate studies and the rest on postgraduate courses.
Of 2,400-plus UK students at third-level colleges in the Republic of Ireland, just over 1,300 are from Northern Ireland.
Almost 60% (936) of these are undergraduates and the remainder are postgraduate.