Speaking to the University Observer, UCDSU Education Officer Lexi Kilmartin said that from information she has gained from different university departments, British students enrolling in the 2017/2018 year will likely still have the same EU rate fees. As far as the union is aware, no decision has yet been made about subsequent years.
She did say that there have been discussions of a special arrangement where UK students would pay something more in line with the EU fee status, “not free fees… but not non-EU fees”, although she was keen to emphasise that nothing concrete has come from these discussions. “As soon as we know and we can tell people, we will.”
UCD acted quickly to reassure students following the Brexit referendum, updating the UCD website just a day after the result to say that existing enrolled British students will retain an EU fee status for the duration of their degree programme. Students who were due to enrol in the 2016/2017 academic year will also have EU fee status for the duration of their programme.
A rise in fees of this magnitude may make UCD unattractive to British students, and the UCDSU Students’ Union is acutely aware of this. Kilmartin said that discussions are happening in the university about what the fee structure will be for British students going forward.
“We’re involved in some, not all of those discussions and we’re trying to advocate for British students and particularly for students who are north of the border,” said Kilmartin “because that’s the most contentious issue as far as we see and also as far as the university sees.“
There would be a substantial fee increase if students coming from the UK, including Northern Ireland, were forced to pay non-EU student rates. In 2016, the majority of EU undergraduate students paid fees ranging from €5,843 to €7,567. In comparison, non-EU undergraduates pay between €17,400 and €24,400 for the same courses.
“I was quite nervous initially,” said Milly English, a British student studying medicine in UCD, who had voted to remain in the EU. Immediately after the referendum result, she emailed UCD to ask if she would become a non-EU student.
Kilmartin also pointed out that a British exit from the EU had some potential upsides for UCD:
“what might attract more students to UCD is the opportunity this gives the university to hire very high level staff who are receiving EU funding who will no longer receive EU funding, because of Brexit.”
As well as discussions taking place in UCD, there are wider discussions between the English and Irish governments regarding the impact Brexit could have on third level education in both countries. When asked for comment, Adeline Meagher at the Department of Education told the Observer “The Department is conscious of the resulting pressures that may fall on the Irish higher education system following the UK’s decision to leave the EU.”
She also said Department was “liaising with all relevant parties in relation to these pressures including issues with regard to the movement of students between this State and the UK, fees and student grant arrangements.”