Wednesday, 13 May 2020
Department of Education and Skills
Third Level Fees
252. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if he is conducting a review of the university fees policy for persons returning home abroad to study and that are no longer deemed to be Irish citizens for the purposes of university fees. [4851/20]
As the Deputy may be aware, my Department has commenced a review under the EU Commission's DG Reform Programme to look at increased sustainability in higher and further education, including an economic assessment of the funding options outlined in the Cassell's report. Pending the completion of this review my Department is not planning to amend the qualifying criteria of the Free Fees Initiative.
Currently the Free Fees Initiative provides that the Exchequer meets the cost of tuition fees of eligible students pursuing an approved full-time undergraduate course of study in an approved institution in the State. Eligible students must meet the terms of the scheme including the nationality and residency clauses. The residency clause stipulates that eligible students must be ordinarily resident in an EU/EEA state, the Swiss Confederation or United Kingdom for three of the five years preceding entry to their course of study.
Where undergraduate students do not qualify for free fees they are required to pay fees to their higher education institution at either an ‘EU rate’ or a higher ‘Non-EU rate’. It is a matter for the relevant higher education institution to determine the fee rate based on its own criteria.
My Department responded previously to concerns about the impact of the free fees eligibility criteria on individuals who have 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 my Department requested that the Higher Education Authority (HEA) 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.
This approach was implemented for new students from the commencement of the 2014/15 academic year.