Nine months after Britain voted to leave the EU, Prime Minister Theresa May triggered Article 50 on Wednesday and formally served divorce papers on the European Union, a decision that would severely impact many areas including education.
Students from Northern Ireland studying in the Republic face the prospect of having to pay three to five times more in college fees as they will be categorised as non-EU students in two years time.
Responding to the current concerns, NUS-USI President Fergal McFerran said: “It is important that measures are put in place to ensure that opportunities for students are not negatively impacted upon, and to ensure that issues like the possibility of increased fees are addressed and averted.”
McFerran said it is incumbent on all those involved in the Brexit negotiations over the course of the months ahead to “ensure that the freedom of movement of students, staff and citizens in general across the island of Ireland is maintained and defended in the strongest possible terms.”
In DCU, despite good relations and the current common travel area between North and South, students from Northern Ireland are concerned for the future of their education in the Republic.
Matthew Gault, a student from Fermanagh said: “A raise in fees for Northern Irish students would be a disgrace. It’s already hard enough for Northern Irish and British students to get into university in Ireland due to the points conversion from A – Levels to CAO.”
Gault had the choice between Nottingham Trent and DCU and chose the former because of the lower cost.
“I’m only in first year here in DCU and would already consider continuing my studies further here. But if these proposed changes go through, then sadly I’d have to leave and move onto somewhere else” he added.
The majority of voters in the North elected to remain as part of the EU and final year student Caoimhe Cassidy from County Down said that Northern Ireland shouldn’t be put at a disadvantage because of “a decision that England made.”
“We should have the same rights and regulations as students that grew up in the South” she said.
President of DCU, Brian MacCraith said DCU have set up a working group chaired by Deputy President Professor Daire Keogh and will be looking at all possible worst case scenarios of a very hard Brexit including the prospect of Northern Ireland students being treated as International students.
“We are deliberately highlighting now it so it will be included in negotiations that there should be a prospect of a special deal, dealing with the island of Ireland and the East-West relationship between Ireland and Great Britain,” said MacCraith.
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