The number of Irish students seeking university places in the United Kingdom this year has dropped sharply, partly because of the introduction of tuition fees from September.
Last year, 11,213 students from Ireland applied for UK places. By March 6 this year, only 7,191 applications had been received.
Sterling's strength compared with the Irish pound may also be affecting applications. Two years ago, the Irish pound was marginally stronger than sterling. Today, the position is reversed, and sterling is 18 per cent stronger.
The abolition of tuition fees in Irish colleges is another factor. In the past, it was often cheaper to study in the UK than in a college in Dublin, Cork, Limerick or Galway. The fall in the value of the Irish pound will also affect those Irish students attending UK institutions who are entitled to means-tested maintenance grants from the Irish education ministry.
In the past few years, UK universities have given places to a significant number of Irish students. British institutions have 12,000-14,000 Irish students. Each year more than 100 UK institutions attend a recruitment fair in Dublin, and advertisements frequently appear in newspapers offering UK places to Irish students. Last autumn, for instance, 3,549 accepted places on UK degree courses and 329 on HND courses.
Higher education institutions in the republic have just over 100,000 full-time students. Applications to Irish universities and colleges have risen this year by 2,000 to 61,870. Slightly more than half of these applicants will get places. A sharp fall in the number enrolling to study in the UK will hit already overcrowded Irish universities.