A Galway TD has called on Education MinisterRichard Bruton to subsidise any Irish student in the UK who finds themselves facing thousands in student fees as a result of hikes likely to be introduced because of Brexit.
Independent Galway West TD Noel Grealish said students who have begun, or are about to start, university courses in the UK, and which will be completed only after that state has exited the EU, could potentially face paying thousands in college fees, with students in Scotland being the worst affected.
According to Dep Grealish, a student from Ireland, or elsewhere in the EU, does not pay any fee to study in a university in Scotland. The maximum fee charged to an Irish student going to college in Wales or Northern Ireland is less than £4,000. This is in contrast to English students who must pay university fees of up to £9,000, no matter where in the UK they study. The same higher fee structure applies to UK students going to a college other than in their home country.
“Irish students in Scotland will be afraid they will suddenly be asked to pay £9,000 a year - c€11,000 - to continue attending universities in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales," he said. "How many of them will be able to pay that much a year to complete their courses?"
While it will take at least two years for the UK to leave the EU, Brexit could still mean that students starting college this September could find themselves "in an impossible situation halfway through their courses".
He added that Brexit could also result in Irish students finding it harder to get on to the college courses they might want here in Ireland, as a result of increased numbers seeking places, so pushing up the points requirements.
In a written reply to a Dáil question tabled by the Galway West TD, Minister Bruton said his department had contributed to a contingency framework put in place by the Government in relation to the UK decision to leave the EU and had identified student flows as a priority area.
“My Department is conscious of the resulting pressures that may fall on the Irish higher education system following the UK's decision to leave the EU," the Minister said. "My Department will be liaising with all relevant parties, including the relevant education departments in the UK in relation to these pressures including issues with regard to the movement of students between this State and the UK, fees and student grant arrangements."