Almost £2 million of funding for Northern Ireland students taking part in an EU study abroad scheme has been allocated by the Irish government.
The money will allow students from the north to continue to go on Erasmus+ international study and work trips following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.
The Republic's Further and Higher Education Minister Simon Harris said €2m (£1.7m) will be provided for this year with support set to stay in place indefinitely.
Erasmus is an EU programme that helps students study in other countries. It has enabled thousands from Northern Ireland to spend time abroad studying or on a work placement.
The UK turned down an offer to continue participating in Erasmus after Brexit and set up the alternative Turing scheme.
While most UK students now only have access to the Turing scheme, those in Northern Ireland can still participate in Erasmus due to the arrangement with the Irish government, which means they are eligible to apply for both programmes.
Today I’m delighted to announce funding to ensure students in Northern Ireland can access Erasmus+— Simon Harris TD (@SimonHarrisTD) July 27, 2023
This was a commitment made by the Irish Government to the people of Northern Ireland after Brexit and today's announcement of €2 million will ensure students can benefit from Sept. pic.twitter.com/663ILWphwY
Mr Harris said it was “a permanent commitment, and will be in place for as long as students in Northern Ireland wish to avail of this option or an alternative mobility model emerges”.
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"It is an investment in relationships between institutions north and south," he said.
"It is an investment in our island’s next generation, and I think it’s a really practical, sensible way of continuing to co-operate post-Brexit."
Mr Harris said that "during my many engagements in Northern Ireland, including with the universities' vice-chancellors, the loss of access to Erasmus+ Programme was constantly being raised - I understand that".
“However, it is more than that," he said.
"Many students in Northern Ireland choose to pursue internships in Ireland in key employment sectors such as financial services and technology.
"This experience is vital, and aligns skills development with the island economy."
"Fulfilling this promise will deliver on the Irish government’s commitment made during the UK withdrawal from the EU.
"This funding will bolster the financial capacity of the institutions to meet the mobility needs of their students."
He added that the funding is an "investment in relationships between institutions north and south".
"It is an investment in our island’s next generation, and I think it's a really practical sensible way of continuing to cooperate post-Brexit," he said.
SDLP higher education spokesperson Sinéad McLaughlin welcomed the funding.
“Following the Brexit referendum there was serious concern about the impact leaving the European Union would have on students in the north wishing to take part in Erasmus+ studies in Europe," she said.
"Young people here have been afforded amazing opportunities to work, study and live abroad for many decades and it was unthinkable that would be robbed away from them.
"The experience of studying and living abroad brings huge benefits to young people and helps them develop new skills, build new connections with peers from across Europe all while growing their intercultural understanding and awareness."