Brexit must not disadvantage northern students in Republic, Belfast academic says

In recent years, NUI Galway's student numbers from Northern Ireland have been showing an upward trend

A-LEVEL pupils in Northern Ireland who wish to study in the Republic should not be disadvantaged by the UK's departure from the EU, it has been urged.

The Dublin government has vowed to freeze university fees for northern students post-Brexit.

Those starting a degree in 2019 will not have to pay higher fees, Minister for Education and Skills Joe McHugh said.

There had been fears that applicants would be treated as non-EU students post-Brexit and charged significantly more.

At present, students pay a contribution fee of €3,000 (£2,700) a year, the same as the rest of the EU. The majority receive a student loan to cover this charge.

Non-EU students can be charged up to €15,000 more.

Mr McHugh said the existing arrangements would remain in place in 2019/20 for new entrants.

NUI Galway has now welcomed the continuation of the `free fee' scheme.

Its Belfast-born registrar and deputy president Professor Pól Ó Dochartaigh said the clarification addressed concerns surrounding the looming Brexit deadline and the potential negative impact on students.

"Historically the catchment area for NUI Galway is contiguous to Northern Ireland and it is very important that A-level students in Northern Ireland who wish to study at NUI Galway are not disadvantaged as a result of the UK's departure from the European Union," he said.

"In recent years our student numbers from Northern Ireland have been showing an upward trend and we are looking forward to welcoming an increasing number of Northern Irish students coming to NUI Galway to study one of the 67 undergraduate degrees on offer."

Meanwhile, students have urged the withdrawal of Article 50 and staging of a `people's vote' on Brexit.

NUS-USI president Olivia Potter Hughes said many students who did not have a vote in 2016 must be given a referendum "as soon as possible to vote on their country's future".

"The humiliating and historic defeat for the Brexit deal shows there needs to be a u-turn on this issue. It's crucial that a people's vote is delivered. We have to be given the chance to prevent the UK from leaving the EU. We have consistently and coherently put forward our very genuine concerns, and students have not been listened to," she said.

"Students are extremely worried that any negative Brexit outcomes will have a devastating impact upon further and higher education. It is crucial that cross-border tuition fees don't increase in the future and that student mobility is not in any way impeded."

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