Saturday 17 November 2018

Irish students in UK ‘will escape higher fees’ in wake of Brexit

UK Minister Sam Gyimah
Photo: UK Gov
UK Minister Sam Gyimah Photo: UK Gov
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

IRISH students in the UK won’t have to pay higher ‘international’ fees and will still be able to access student loans after Brexit.

British government minister Sam Gyimah told a high-level conference in London he is committed to maintaining rights of Irish students to access higher and further education on equal terms with UK nationals.

Mr Gyimah, the UK’s higher education minister, said the proposed deal would be reciprocal – with UK students in Ireland to be treated in the same way as domestic students.

He was speaking at a conference that brought together government ministers, policymakers, educators and researchers from across the UK and Ireland to identify specific initiatives to enhance co-operation post-Brexit.

The conference was organised by the British Irish Chamber of Commerce, whose patron is Niall Fitzgerald, former CEO and chair of the consumer goods giant Unilever, and sponsored by the Higher Education Authority (HEA) and Science Foundation Ireland (SFI).

Much of the focus was on existing higher education and research partnerships between the two countries, and how these could be continued and developed when the UK departs the EU.

In a well-received address, Mr Gyimah paid tribute to how Ireland had built a “powerful and dynamic knowledge economy” and said the UK had much to learn from it.

He expressed a very strong commitment to deepening collaboration – and his comments on students will draw huge sighs of relief, not only from Irish students, but also UK universities.

UK universities offer an important safety valve for Irish school-leavers who don’t get the necessary points for entry to a CAO course, and the reality is that Irish higher education does not currently have the capacity to absorb the numbers involved.

There are more than 10,000 Irish students in Britain and Northern Ireland.

Nursing is particularly popular and many others study disciplines with limited capacity in Ireland, such as pharmacy or physiotherapy.

Before Mr Gyimah’s comments, Louise Richardson, the Irish-born vice chancellor of the University of Oxford, said there were 260 Irish students in Oxford and she was presuming they would have to pay international fees “which will significantly reduce their numbers”.

Mr Gyimah said Irish students brought diversity to UK campuses, stimulated demand for courses, added to the research capacity and brought welcome income to UK universities and local economies.

“In the longer term, they offer something even more valuable, the prospect of ongoing business, political, cultural and research links between our two countries. Long may this continue,” he said.

“That is why we have made a commitment to maintaining the rights of Irish nationals to access higher and further education courses on equal terms to UK nationals, on a reciprocal basis. This includes rights to qualify for student loans and support.”

Irish Independent

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