TRAINEE chartered accountants are paying as much as €600 more to do courses in the Republic than they would if they took the exact same course in the North, the Irish Independent has learned.
In a move more common to the retail sector where prices vary hugely from country to country, Chartered Accountants Ireland (CAI) charges more for students to take any of its five courses in the Republic than they would pay if they did their exams on the other side of the Border.
Under the terms proposed for the coming academic year, a student taking the final admitting exam (FAE), which is the last barrier to entry into the profession, will have to pay fees of €4,350 if they do the course in the Republic, but in the North the equivalent fee is £2,955.
That equates to €3,787 at current exchange rates -- a difference of €593.
To study all subjects for the level 1 chartered accountancy proficiency (CAP1) is about €242 more expensive in the South, while a course in one subject is €420 in Dublin versus some €371 in Belfast.
The difference is even greater at level 2 (CAP2), where a student in the Republic will pay close to €412 more.
A spokesman for the CAI, which describes itself as the "leading voice of the accountancy profession in Ireland", said the discrepancy was due to currency fluctuations and higher costs in the Republic.
"The fees are based on exchange rates that were taken at a fixed point in time.
"It allows us to simplify our fee structure. For example, we were able to increase our fees by 4pc across the board, instead of adjusting by different percentages in Northern Ireland and the Republic."
"There is also the cost involved. In the South we have to deal with higher input costs so we have to spend more to run a course in the Republic than we would in the North," he added.
The CAI has over 20,000 members and almost 6,000 students at any one time.
Many of those students have their fees paid by the companies they work for but a growing number are individuals who pay themselves.
CAI has increased its fees by 4pc for the coming academic year and fees are set by jurisdiction.
The CAI has made a number of changes to its syllabus for next year, including the reinstatement of full mock exams for CAP2, which had apparently been dropped due to cost issues.