Written answers

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Department of Education and Skills

Third Level Fees

Photo of Peadar TóibínPeadar Tóibín (Meath West, Sinn Fein)
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142. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills his views on whether it is acceptable that a family that was forced to emigrate to Australia in 2012 due to the recession and has now returned home is liable for international fees in third level institutions here (details supplied); and his plans to ensure that this charge is changed and that persons who have had to emigrate are not affected in such a manner. [20724/19]

Photo of Joe McHughJoe McHugh (Donegal, Fine Gael)
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As the Deputy may be aware, in order to qualify for funding under the Department’s Free Fees Initiative students must be first-time undergraduates, hold inter alia EU/EEA/Swiss nationality in their own right, and have been ordinarily resident in an EU/EEA/Swiss state for at least three of the five years preceding their entry to an approved third level course.

Where students do not qualify for free fees funding, they must pay the appropriate fee, either EU or Non-EU, as determined by each higher education institution. These institutions are autonomous bodies and the level of fee payable by students who do not meet the requirements of the free fees scheme is a matter for the relevant institution to determine in accordance with their own criteria.

The Department responded previously to concerns about the impact of the Free Fees Initiative eligibility criteria on Irish nationals who had, for occupational or economic reasons, to move abroad, requiring them to take their children out of the Irish education system in the process.

To this end, in March 2014 the Department requested the Higher Education Authority (HEA) to advise the higher education sector that full-time undergraduate students who:

- Hold EU/EEA/Swiss nationality but do not meet the residency clause of the Free Fees Initiative; and

- have completed five academic years of study (at either primary or post-primary level) in an EU/EEA/Swiss State; and

- commence their first undergraduate course of study in an approved institution here from the following academic year onwards,

should be charged the EU rate of fee rather than the higher non-EU rate by their higher education institution.

There are no plans presently to further amend the criteria set out above.

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