The Northern Irish executive said yesterday that the province – which has two universities, the University of Ulster and Queen’s University Belfast – would follow the example of Scotland and Wales in charging £9,000 to rest-of-UK students.
Northern Irish students will have their fees set at £3,465, as will students from the Republic of Ireland and all other European Union countries.
Basil McCrea, chairman of the Northern Ireland Assembly’s employment and learning committee, warned: “We are leaving ourselves open to an equity challenge. It is not fair that someone from Doncaster doing chemical engineering here pays up to £9,000, someone from Dundalk pays around £3,000, and someone from Dromore £3,000.”
Northern Irish students wishing to study in the rest of the UK, who may face fees of up to £9,000, will be able to apply for loans to cover the full amount.
The University of Ulster is reported to have indicated that it will charge rest-of-UK students around £6,000 a year in classroom-based subjects, and around £8,000 a year in lab-based subjects. Queen’s University Belfast has yet to make a decision.
Stephen Farry, Northern Ireland’s employment and learning minister, said his department needed to find £22 million to plug the funding gap.
“These decisions are a clear indication that the executive is working for Northern Ireland,” he said.
“For our future students, for our graduates and indeed for their families and the economy.
“A considerable element of this will be financed by charging higher fees to students from England, Scotland and Wales.”