Funding certainty for Irish students in England and Wales
Irish students who want to go to college in England and Wales next year have been given a guarantee that there will be no change in the existing funding arrangements.
No announcements have been made yet in relation to EU students, including those from the Republic of Ireland, considering entering colleges in Northern Ireland or Scotland.
While there has been a drop in interest among students from the Republic in going to Britain, arising from the sharp increase in fees for many colleges, it remains an important option.
Last year, about 2,000 students from the Republic took up a place in Northern Ireland, England, Scotland or Wales, many transferring from a post-Leaving Certificate course to complete a degree programme.
The Brexit vote has created uncertainty about how EU students pursuing a degree in the UK will be treated in the long term.
In the immediate aftermath of the Brexit vote, the British government committed to no change for students entering colleges in Northern Ireland. England, Scotland or Wales in 2016.
Now, officials have confirmed that EU students applying for entry to colleges in England and Wales in 2017 will also be able to access the same funding arrangements they are entitled to currently.
It means that EU students will continue to be eligible for student loans and grants for the duration of their degree course.
Officials stressed that the arrangement would be valid even if the UK exited the EU during the period of the course.
Speaking about the decision in relation to England, Universities UK president Julia Goodfellow said students from other EU countries starting in 2017 had the same certainties relating to fees and government-backed loans as UK students. She said she hoped the announcement would be followed by similar reassurances across Britain.
Meanwhile, the chairman designate of the Higher Education Authority Michael Horgan told the Oireachtas education committee yesterday that Irish universities were already in contact with their counterparts in the UK with a view to forming post-Brexit research partnerships. The UK has been significant beneficiary of EU research grants.