The chief executive of the Donegal Education and Training Board (ETB), Anne McHugh, has warned that Brexit may heap pressure on the southern education system if thousands of students who traditionally would have travelled to Derry to undetake further education at the ‘Tech,’ suddenly find themselves subject to prohibitive fees.
Ms. McHugh, addressing the Seanad Brexit committee, warned members that southern colleges and even the Central Applications Office (CAO) third level college application system could find themselves inundated if students from Inishowen and elsewhere in Donegal are hit by higher costs as EU citizens attending non-EU colleges in the North following the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union.
The leading local educationalist also pointed to the highly integrated nature of the North West in terms of cross-border pupil and student flows.
“There are many complex cross-border links,” she said.
“Derry is seen in Inishowen as its natural city. Inishowen people tend to gravitate to Derry rather than even to Letterkenny. There is a lot of history and complexity involved there.
“We are doing our best and working together closely to see what we can do to make it easier for students and learners in our general communities. That is just an example. The same pertains all along the border,” she added.
Ms. McHugh said the flow of students, learners and trainees across the border was a key concern for the Donegal ETB.
“The big issue is that Irish students who study in the UK and Northern Ireland may now possibly face non-EU fees. That is an issue. The other big issue is that there are approximately 2,000 students doing their leaving certificate examinations now, which the committee will know are ongoing.
“In the past...a lot of those students would have gone to the north and UK to continue their studies.
“Those students will possibly now opt to remain in the south for their further and higher education...One of the results of that is that it will possibly put additional pressures on the CAO system. It will certainly put additional pressures on the Further Education and Training (FET) system. For example, quite a number of our border students would transfer to colleges in Northern Ireland for further education.
“The best example is the North West Regional College. It was formerly known as the Derry Tech but they now have a number of campuses in Strabane and Limavady and there is also a connection to Enniskillen. In terms of higher and further education coming from the south, we tend to get more of our students going for further education in the north. According to my figures, more will remain in the south for higher education, but for further education they cross over. That will have an immediate effect on us as the statutory body providing further education in the South through our Border ETBs.”