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Costly college fees axed for migrants who become EU citizens

Up until now, students who are resident in Ireland but whose families are from outside the EU get free primary and secondary education – but have had to pay more than €10,000 per year at third level.

Image: Shot of graduation caps via Shutterstock

THIRD-LEVEL STUDENTS who become EU citizens during their college course will no longer have to pay punitive levels of college fees, the Minister for Education has announced.

Up until now, students who are legally resident in Ireland but whose families come from outside the EU have been mired in a loophole in which they have been able to avail of free primary and secondary education, but have been hit by fees of more than €10,000 per year at third level.

The move will close the loophole and means these students who acquire citizenship will be able to avoid the high fees.

Ruairí Quinn said the change was based on the fact that many of these students have been living in Ireland for a long time.

The Migrant Rights Centre Ireland has estimated that around 700 students could benefit from the move.  The students will have to satisfy a number of conditions in order to avoid paying non-EU fees, including living in Ireland for three of the previous five years.

“Today’s development means that we are adopting an equitable approach to non-EEA [European Economic Area] students who acquire EEA citizenship during the course of their students,” said Quinn.

It recognises the long connections many of them have with Ireland, as well as the positive contribution they can make to our shared future.
This Government has introduced citizenship ceremonies for new Irish citizens, and this policy change will follow on from that development, and ensure that new citizens will be treated exactly the same as those born in Ireland.

The move has been welcomed by the Union of Students in Ireland and groups representing migrants.

Announcing the move, Minister Quinn said he has asked the Higher Education Authority to put together a report on the different rate of fees charged by individual third level institutes for students from outside the EU who do not have citizenship.

“The non-EU rate of fee should be charged only to international students… and not to non-EEA nationals and their dependents who are legally resident in the EU,” said Quinn.

“While this is a matter for individual institutions, I am asking the HEA to enter into discussions with the institutions to introduction of a consistent policy on this basis across all higher education institutions.”

The move applies to students from the European Economic Area, which includes Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway as well as all the EU member states.

Read: Political integration scheme connects migrants to Leinster House >

Read: Increase in third level entrants from wealthier backgrounds >

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