Changes to CAFRE fees likely to impact families of migrant workers most

New legislation introduced as a result of Brexit could cut students out of agri-food education in Northern Ireland.

The new rules regarding CAFRE fees are a result of The Agriculture (Student fees) (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2021.

It means that students from European Union countries who do not have settled status will have to pay fees of £9,250 a year to study at the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE).

Students ordinarily resident in England, Scotland, Wales, Gibraltar, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man will also have to pay the higher fees.

Currently, no students on Further Education courses at CAFRE pay fees, as all tuition fees are paid in full by DAERA.

Students on degree programmes run in conjunction with local universities do pay fees, albeit at a much-reduced rate, which is set to increase in September.

Speaking to Agriland, Agriculture Committee chairman Declan McAleer said: “I highlighted my concerns in the committee regarding this SR (Statutory Regulation), and particularly how it affects students from the EU.

This could create barriers for students and have a negative impact on enrolment at CAFRE.

“However, this is a consequence of Brexit and it is coming to us in the form of a negative resolution so we have little power to change this.”

McAleer explained 70% of those working in Northern Ireland food and agriculture and 90% of vets employed in processing plants were from outside NI.

He explained he had also asked for further information on the impact assessments carried out for the legislation as the rural impact assessment had identified a differential impact between rural and urban areas.

Studying at CAFRE

The College of Agriculture Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) offers courses in agriculture, horticulture, food technology, floristry, veterinary nursing, equine studies, and land-based engineering.

The college has three campuses – Greenmount, Enniskillen and Loughry College.

Information on funding support and bursary programmes at CAFRE can be found here.