Apologies for that.
With regard to the role education has played in the development of peace on this island, the most recent statistics for the 2015 to 2016 academic year on cross-Border student flows indicate 2,195 students from Ireland were studying in Northern Irish higher education institutions, of whom 1,135, or 52% of the total, were pursuing undergraduate programmes. Interestingly, the number of Irish students in the South declined by 38% in the five years leading to the 2015 to 2016 year. In contrast, the number of Northern Irish students studying in Irish higher education institutions increased by 24% over the same time period. Numerically, the figure stood at 1,200, with 980, or 82% of the total, pursuing undergraduate programmes.
This is only part of the picture. In the 2017 to 2018 academic year, more than 10,000 students from the Republic of Ireland were in UK higher education institutions, with more than half pursuing undergraduate programmes for the first time, while a further 44% were undertaking postgraduate studies. In the same year, there were 2,426 students from the UK in Irish higher education institutions, with 63% of these doing undergraduate studies. Clearly, not all of these students are eligible for SUSI supports. In the 2017 to 2018 academic year, 1,475, or 14%, of the Irish students attending UK higher education institutions were in receipt of a SUSI grant, which amounted to €5.2 million. In terms of the number of UK students in Irish higher education institutions, 205, or 9%, were eligible for the SUSI grant. This amounted to €720,000.
Since my appointment, my goal has been to protect the valuable and rich co-operation that takes place between educational institutions on a North-South and an east-west basis. There are examples of this at all levels. I look at the north-west strategic partnership, where Letterkenny Institute of Technology and Donegal Education and Training Board work closely with the University of Ulster and North West Regional College from the North to ensure further and higher education provision are closely aligned with the skills and industrial needs of the region. In many senses, the Border does not figure as these educational institutions seek to develop a shared education and skills strategy.
It is important to acknowledge the commitment of those educators at all levels who have built collaborations across the Border. They deserve commendation and our appreciation. The foundations they have built must be protected and strengthened. Indeed, there has been a shared education ecosystem between Ireland and the United Kingdom since the foundation of the State and even before that. It is hugely important that we protect and preserve this collaboration in the interests of our young people and in the interests of the quality of our education and training system. In this regard, we are working to maintain the common travel area, which will protect much of the valuable and rich co-operation that takes place in education on a North-South and an east-west basis. The Minister of State with responsibility for higher education and I view the amendment that is the focus of today's engagement as one of the key responses of the Department to the challenges of Brexit. It will facilitate student mobility between Ireland, Northern Ireland and the wider UK, and enable me to meet education obligations under the common travel area. I will now ask the Minister of State with responsibility for higher education to take the committee through the proposed amendment.