Republic student fees deal outlined
New students from Northern Ireland are to be charged fees for studying in the Republic and will have to take out a loan, employment and learning minister Stephen Farry said.
The lender would cover the full cost of the student contribution charge, which is 2,250 euro (£1,774) this year, a means-tested non-repayable grant for living costs of up to £3,475 and a maximum loan for living costs of up to £4,840.
Mr Farry said the arrangements for 2013/14 were broadly equivalent to those for Northern Ireland students studying anywhere in the UK.
"The revised arrangements provide a more level playing field in terms of the student finance package for local students regardless of where they choose to study in the UK and Republic of Ireland and will also ensure an equitable alignment in student support arrangements for all Northern Ireland-domiciled students," he said.
The maximum non-repayable maintenance grant will increase by over 70% to £3,575. A greater number of students will become eligible for a partial maintenance grant as the upper household income threshold will increase from £23,605 to £41,064.
Applicants from Northern Ireland who opt to study in the Republic had been able to do so entirely for free as - in addition to qualifying for free tuition fees as EU citizens - their student contribution fee was paid by the Department for Employment and Learning.
The incentive to study in the Republic was attractive, as students from Northern Ireland who opted to study at home are facing tuition fees of up to £3,465 per year from September.
Mr Farry added: "It is inconsistent to maintain the current system of providing a full non-repayable grant to cover this charge when students from Northern Ireland studying at home and in other parts of the UK are expected to cover the cost of their tuition fees, with the majority applying for student loans for this purpose."
National Union of Students president Adrianne Peltz said ensuring students in Northern Ireland get the best deal possible regardless of where they study must be at the forefront of any decision-making within the Executive.
"Too few students from Northern Ireland are able to take up the enviable opportunity to study in the Republic of Ireland," she said. "This is a first step in redressing the imbalance in support funds that students wishing to study in the Republic have long had to suffer."