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The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) today welcomed the St. Patrick’s Day announcement by Minister Quinn of fee reductions for returning emigrants and the children of Irish families living outside the EU.

The USI first raised the issue of fee treatment for returning emigrants with the Minister at a meeting held on December 3rd, and proactively suggested changes to the residency requirements for students in these circumstances, by using Junior Cert or Leaving Cert education as criteria to qualify for ‘EU-level’ residency for the purposes of calculating fees.

The changes now proposed, which apply to anyone studying for 5 years or more at primary or post-primary education in Ireland, go further than that in terms of scope, and will ensure any students wishing to return to education in Ireland from abroad will experience more favourable fee treatment.

USI President Joe O’Connor said:

“Having raised this issue with the Minister and the Department several months ago, and pressing it ever since, this is a welcome announcement and a positive step to reach out to the Irish Diaspora abroad and encourage them to return home.

Young people who left our shores in droves during the economic crisis, to Australia, Canada, and elsewhere outside the EU, are now enabled to return to education in Ireland without being treated as an ‘international student’ and the exorbitant level of fees which that brings.

However, this is merely a stopgap measure and gesture. The ‘push’ factors leading to forced emigration in Ireland now need to be properly addressed, including real investment in tackling the youth unemployment crisis, and an end to the internship culture which has been allowed to develop.

While a significant improvement over the international/non-EU levels of fees now exists for the small number of young people who find themselves in this situation, the Student Contribution Charge, which is set to reach €3,000 in Budget 2015, is still a strong barrier to access for many families and young people.

Equity of access to Higher Education can only be delivered through a publicly-funded system devoid of financial barriers and commercial influence.”

For more information contact USI Communications and Research Executive Grainne O’Reilly on 087 6776636 or 01 9052100.

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