Number of UK students applying to study in Ireland plummets

Without an agreement between the EU and the UK, British and Irish students could face paying international fees after Brexit

The number of UK students applying to study in Ireland through the CAO has dropped by 10 per cent since the Brexit vote.

Documents from the Department of Education outline a “noticeable drop” in applications to Irish colleges from English, Welsh and Scottish students for September 2017. Similarly, Irish students applying to the UK UCAS system has dropped by 18 per cent on 2016 figures. Applications from Northern Irish students, however, increased slightly following the Brexit vote in July, with the latest CAO figures showing a two per cent rise. The initial CAO figures up to March 9th show a 17 per cent rise in applicants from other EU countries looking to move to Ireland for their studies.

The final deadline for late applications to the CAO for Irish, EU and international students was May 1st. The total drop in applications from British students this year will be known in the next number of weeks.

Uncertainty around a potential future rise in college fees for UK students travelling to Ireland to study and vice versa has led to a drop in applications. If no agreement is put in place between the EU and the UK, British and Irish students could be faced with paying non-EU student fees when moving to study in Ireland or the UK. Non-EU or ‘international student’ fees range from €18,000 to €23,000 for most courses, and €45,000 to €52,000 for clinical degrees like medicine. Currently any student in the EU can move to study in another country in the European Union and pay the same fees as they would in their home country.

The Irish Department of Education has said that they cannot enter into separate bilateral negotiations with the UK or Northern Irish governments to arrange a specific deal for Irish and British students, and the issue will have to be agreed on an EU level with all 28 states involved.

Department officials stated there is “concern” over potentially losing the current level of student mobility between Ireland, Northern Ireland and the UK. Both Ireland and Britain have agreed that any student who travels between the countries to study this September will pay the current EU fee rates for the duration of their degree. Latest figures from the Department of Education show there are 2,812 UK students studying in Irish colleges, including Northern Irish students.

The Irish Universities Association (IUA) have also said there is “a real concern that Brexit will lead to a decrease in student flows between Ireland and the various parts of the UK”. Lewis Purser, IUA director of academic affairs said that “Irish universities are comforted by the prominence given to maintaining the Common Travel Area in the comments of both UK and EU parties so far”. The group, who represent the seven Irish universities, said they “hope that this will also include the right not just to travel but also to study, under conditions which do not differ from those in force today”.

During the St Patrick’s week break, Minister for Education Richard Bruton travelled to England for an official visit. Mr Bruton met key UK higher education officials in London, including the vice chancellor of Oxford University and the vice chancellor of London Metropolitan University.

According to briefing documents from the Department of Education the meeting was arranged to discuss future higher education partnerships between the UK and Ireland after Britain leaves the EU. Mr Bruton has also recently met with the UK education secretary Justine Greening, and his Northern Irish ministerial counterparts Peter Weir and Simon Hamilton.

Jack Power

Jack Power

Jack Power is a reporter with The Irish Times