Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Questions (49)

Joe McHugh


49. Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on whether third level institutions need to be more ambitious in opening up undergraduate programmes to Northern Ireland residents; if he is concerned about the insubstantial increase in the numbers of third level students here who are from Northern Ireland compared proportionately with 1997; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32012/13]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

Undergraduate programmes in the universities and institutes of technology are open to students from Northern Ireland, who can apply for a place through the CAO system and who are entitled to access the free fees scheme on the same basis as Irish nationals. Universities and institutes of technology are autonomous statutory bodies and the recruitment of students is a matter for the individual institutions concerned. The International Education Strategy has a particular focus on recruiting students from priority markets outside of the EU, including the USA, China, India Brazil and the Gulf but individual institutions are free to focus their recruitment efforts on any country or region. While CAO applications from students in Northern Ireland have been increasing in recent years, including a 40% increase since 2011, very small numbers of the students from Northern Ireland who apply through the CAO subsequently enrol in higher education institutions in the south. There are a number of reasons for this including a concentration in demand for a small number of programmes such as medicine for which there is a very high overall level of demand, and a lower rate of acceptance by students in Northern Ireland of places in Irish universities compared to Leaving Certificate students. My Department engages with Northern Ireland's Department of Employment and Learning on a regular basis to discuss issues of mutual interest, including cross border student mobility.