Overseas student fees hike proposed
Students from the rest of the UK wishing to study in Northern Ireland could face fees of up to £9,000 a year, the Stormont Assembly has been told.
The decision to increase charges for prospective admissions from England, Scotland and Wales comes after the region's power-sharing executive decided not to substantially increase rates for local students.
With anyone from Northern Ireland who decides to study in the rest of the UK facing potential £9,000 a year charges from 2012, ministers have agreed that they will be entitled to apply for student loans to cover the full amount.
As the changes to higher education charges are likely to see more local people opting to stay in Northern Ireland, Stormont Employment and Learning Minister Stephen Farry said he would now consider a "modest increase" to the current 25,000 cap on student places in the region.
Mr Farry outlined the details of the fee structures for the coming four years on the first full sitting of the Assembly since the summer recess.
The new £3,465 rate for Northern Ireland students studying at home represents a rise only in line with inflation and the minister said he wanted to ensure that students from the rest of the UK selecting a university in Northern Ireland did so for the right reasons.
"We want to avoid a parochial situation where our universities just service a local market, but equally we should not be seen as a cheap option," he said.
"Consequently, tuition fees for students from other parts of the United Kingdom will be higher than for our own students, but no higher than what our students would have to pay if studying in England and Wales."
The region's two main institutions - Queen's University and the University of Ulster - have yet to set fee rates for students from the rest of the UK wishing to study in Northern Ireland from 2012 on.
Students from the Republic of Ireland, and all other European Union (EU) countries, will not have to pay the higher rates. EU regulations mean they can only be charged at the same £3,465 per annum rate as Northern Ireland students.