The Irish government will allocate €2 million to support Northern Irish students who can no longer partake in the Erasmus+ programme, the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Simon Harris announced on July 27.

Mr Harris declared the funding to be a “permanent commitment” to the students of Northern Ireland in order for them to avail of academic opportunities and internships across Europe. 

Harris described it as “an investment in our island’s next generation” and placed emphasis on the value of maintaining good relations between institutions both North and South of the border.

Harris also spoke of the importance of this funding in respect to cross-border relations. He addressed the fact that “many students in Northern Ireland choose to pursue internships in Ireland” and emphasised how “this experience is vital and aligns skills development with the island economy”. 

20% of all Northern Ireland Erasmus+ internships are in the Republic with many in key sectors such as finance and technology. This highlights the importance of such support not only for Northern Irish students who choose to study abroad but also for those who decide to study within the Republic. 

Erasmus+ is an EU programme which offers higher education students within the EU the opportunity to study abroad in other EU member states. The Erasmus+ programme funds travel costs and some living expenses such as accommodation. However, since Brexit the UK has ended its participation in the programme and therefore Erasmus+ schemes no longer grant access to students from Northern Ireland. 

The expected cost of €2 million a year is based upon the current figures of Northern Irish students accessing the Erasmus+ programme. The funding will be in place indefinitely or “for as long as students in Northern Ireland wish to avail of this option”, as Harris stated. 

The department is in the process of completing arrangements with the Northern Ireland higher education institutions in order to ensure these supports will be in place for students in the coming 2023 academic year. 

This news comes shortly after the announcement of a cross-border arrangement between the Departments of Health both North and South of the border, the Department of Further and Higher Education as well as Queen’s University Belfast and Ulster University. 

200 places on nursing degree programmes have been declared for students from the Republic at Queen’s University Belfast and a further 50 places will be made available in therapy disciplines for students from the Republic. 

Ellen Clusker  – Reporter