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How Brexit may affect students studying in Northern Ireland

By Niamh Burns

Tuesday 6 December 2016 Student Journalists

It has been one of the most buzzworthy and hated words of 2016, with many still in shock nearly six months on. The word is Brexit and the subject remains a seriously polarising topic. As everyone knows, the UK voted to leave the European Union on 23 June, with 51.9 per cent of the population voting out. 

A big concern with Brexit is the effect it’ll have on students, both studying in the UK and international students wanting to study at institutions in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Brexit poses many worries that are sometimes to comprehend. What will this mean for international students? Will home students still be able to go on study abroad schemes such as Erasmus? Will tuition fees rise because of Brexit?

However, when it comes to Northern Ireland, which shares landmass with the Republic of Ireland, there is a lot of worry for students from the south studying in the north. If or when the UK leaves the EU, what will this mean for students from the Republic in the north? What kind of implications will they face?

If you consider the city of Derry-Londonderry, which is home to Magee, one of the four Ulster University campuses as well as the North West Regional College, it lies very close to the border of the Republic Ireland, with many students travelling from over the border. At the college, one in five students are from Donegal, highlighting the popularity of Irish students studying in Northern Ireland. Derry-Londonderry overwhelming voted against Brexit, with nearly 80% of the population voting to remain. With so many students from the Republic studying in the city, when Brexit is set into motion, will there be difficulty for students wanting to study in the UK from these areas?

I spoke to Suzanne Rodgers, a media lecturer at North West Regional College. She expressed her dismay of the Brexit vote, saying:

“The major implication for cross-border students is in relation to fees. Now, as EU citizens studying in an EU country they are charged the same fees as someone from the UK.

“After Brexit the fear is that they will be treated the same as someone from outside the EU is currently and charged several thousand pounds more. That would be prohibitive for many prospective students.”

Fears are growing as to what kind of effect the vote will have on local trade and business between the north and south and subsequently free movement between the two countries. Of course, there is the implication that Brexit will have a seriously negative effect on the peace process in Northern Ireland, possibly creating tensions in communities across the province.

With talks already coming from Nicola Sturgeon, on the strong links between the Republic of Ireland and Scotland, the First Minister has already hinted at a second Scottish independence referendum. Whilst it may seem far-fetched that Northern Ireland could also leave the union, should a similar referendum take place, it must be noted that many of the most popular parties are in favour of staying in the EU. This now poses a serious of difficult questions for those studying in Northern Ireland and what could well be a shaky and unpredictable future.



Niamh Burns

Hi, I’m Niamh. I am a recent English Literature graduate from Ulster University, now studying an NCTJ Professional Journalism course at North West Regional College in Derry, Northern Ireland. I have always wanted to become a journalist and have spent the last few years interning at newspapers and magazines throughout Northern Ireland. I have a massive interest in currents affairs, politics and social justice. I’m really interested in student perspective, politics and activism, mainly in feminism and gender equality. I believe it is really important for young people and students to get involved in current affairs and politics, it is crucial for us to have a good platform in order to express ourselves.