Irish parents often struggle with all the questions surrounding education fee planning. Universities around the world often demand higher fees for international students compared to domestic students. Unfortunately, this is also the case in Ireland. There is a myriad of rules that apply to expat children, and navigating these rules can be challenging. Will you have to pay international or domestic fees if your child wishes to get a degree in Ireland?
This article is focused on a student 23 years of age or younger studying to receive an undergraduate degree in Ireland. Other rules may apply to varying circumstances, like older students, for example.
The term EU refers to EEA/EU/Switzerland in this article.
One of the three categories below will apply to students wishing to study in Ireland:
Free Fees Initiative
The Irish government will pay the student fees of students who are eligible for this category, which includes applicants from the EU. However, students may have to pay a Student Contribution Fee annually, which has a maximum of €3,000. This fee is effectively the payment for the provision of student services, such as libraries, entry fees, clubs, computing, and bares. The fee amount will vary between institutions.
EU applicants who do not meet the conditions to be eligible for the Free Fee Initiative fall into this category. Such students may include those who have to repeat a year of studying due to failing, a student returning to the university, and students who have been EU tax residents for numerous years, though not being an EU national or having family members who are EU citizens with permission to live in Ireland. A student will qualify for EU fees if they have spent five years completing post-primary school or primary level education in the EU, though not being an Irish national.
This category applies to any non-EU student and those that do not qualify for either of the categories mentioned above.
Go onto the website of any large Irish university to configure which category best describes your child using the flow charts and eligibility reckons.
For example, the following describes the criteria of University College Dublin:
Three primary conditions need to be met for students to qualify for the Free Fees Initiative:
- Must be an Irish national or have family members who are EU citizens.
- Must be an Irish resident.
- Must meet all the course requirements.
To qualify for EU fees, students only need to be either Irish residents or have family members who are Irish nationals, in addition to meeting the course requirements.
A common misconception among parents is that possessing an Irish passport automatically qualifies a child with Irish Nationality or a child whose parents are Irish nationals living outside of Europe for EU Fees. However, this is not the case, as being an Irish national or having family who are EU citizens is merely one out of three requirements that need to be met to qualify for EU Fees.
This difference can have a significant impact on family finances. For example, the fees involved in getting an Engineering Degree at the National University of Ireland Galway can be described by the following categories:
- If the student qualifies for the Free Fees Initiative, the student contribution is €3,000 for the academic year.
- If the student qualifies for EU Fees, the academic year will cost €7,492.
- An international student’s academic year will cost €16,750.
As the difference between the most and least costly categories is almost €14,000 for the same course, the importance of clarifying the category that applies to a child should not be underestimated. Many courses can be extremely expensive compared to others. For example, studying medicine at the University College Dublin will involve fees of €54,060 for the academic year.
Although university education may seem ages away, time flies by, and before you know it, your children will need provisions to be able to study. Furthermore, the annual inflation of universities worldwide is approximately 4% per year. This is why it is always recommended that parents start saving for their children’s education as soon as possible. Doing this enables parents to plan for the future and diversify the costs over many years, benefitting from the annual growth of investments and keeping up with inflation.
I have a wealth of experience in this field and can help you give your child the ultimate head start in life: a degree without debt. Why not contact me to discuss your options?
I work as a Financial Planner with expat clients to meet their financial planning needs and goals, with a focus on adequately protecting expats & their families, and helping people to grow their savings over the long term. I strongly believe in building meaningful and lasting relationships with clients to ensure the best client outcomes are achieved.