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Academics urge Queen's University to drop review plans post-Brexit

At present EU and home students are charged the same tuition fees

A LEADING academic union has said Queen's University Belfast should scrap a major restructuring plan in light of `Brexit'.

The University and College Union (UCU) has urged Queen's to ditch its controversial size and shape review and start again.

The university's ruling senate approved the plan, which will see A-level students from the north needing a minimum of an A and two Bs to get in.

Degree programmes with fewer than 20 students are also at risk of being wound up, while the number of university schools is to be cut.

In addition, probationary lecturers are being asked to attain grant income "at a relatively high and unrealistic target figure", the union has said.

In a newsletter sent to members, the UCU said the Brexit vote could have implications for tuition fees.

EU law forbids universities from discriminating between member states, but permits them to discriminate within the UK.

This means the north's institutions have been allowed to charge students from Britain up to £9,000 a year, while keeping fees for home and EU students below £4,000. Students who live in the Republic pay the same per year as those from the north at present.

Research has suggested exiting the EU could lead to a decline in the number of EU students because they would instead be recruited as international students, who pay substantially higher annual fees.

A classroom-based course at Queen's for an international student is £13,945 in 2016/17 while some medical courses cost £34,830. The fees for all home and EU students in 2016/17 is £3,925.

The UCU also warned of immediate Brexit implications for academics, especially those in the sciences.

"They may not be able to apply for new EU research funds or participate in new EU collaborative research projects. This makes the targets for probation and academic standards even more ridiculous and we will be pressing for them to be dropped. Brexit leaves the QUB business plan in tatters," the union said.

"We will no longer be required to charge the GB rate to students from the EU, but if we put up the fees for EU students, what will be the implication for numbers?

"Will we still be attractive to foreign students when we do not provide a foothold in the EU? Will we get the planned numbers of foreign students with tighter border controls and the anti-immigrant atmosphere stirred up by Brexit? These are reasons for shelving the Size and Shape Review and starting again."

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