Date Legislation considered: 6 September 2022
Date Legislation in Force: 01 September 2022
Potential Right(s) Affected: Residence/Discrimination/Equal Treatment
What does the legislation do?
The Explanatory Memorandum accompanying the Regulations states that the purpose “is to set the level of fees payable for undergraduate and postgraduate higher education courses and delivered by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) at its college of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE), undertaken by students on a part-time and full-time basis, in Northern Ireland.”
The Regulations replace the Agriculture (Student fees) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2007, as amended and came into force on 1 September 2022.
Although the Explanatory Memorandum states that “the Regulations expressly provide that EU national students (including students from Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) or the family member of an EU national who have commenced the first academic year before the 1 January 2021 or been granted ‘pre-settled’ [our emphasis] or ‘settled status’ under the EUSS contained within Appendix EU of the immigration rules will continue to be treated the same as students ordinarily domiciled in Northern Ireland”; this is not reflected in the Regulations which do not provide for EU national students with pre-settled status to be treated the same as home students. It is the view of the IMA that this is not compatible with Article 23 of the Withdrawal Agreement and Article 22 of the EEA EFTA Separation Agreement.
In correspondence with officials from the Executive Office, Northern Ireland, they have confirmed that they are “content to progress an amendment to the Regulations to provide better clarity that ‘pre settled’ students will be treated the same as ‘home students’ or ‘GB students’ depending on where they are domiciled.”
Pending Applications and Joining family Members
The Regulations are also unclear as to how prospective students with in-time or late applications (which are yet to be determined) or joining family members who are protected during their initial 3 months residence are eligible to be treated as home rather than international students.
Applicants to the EUSS after 30 June 2021, including joining family members of EU and EEA EFTA citizens are entitled to the rights provided under the Agreements while their application is being determined. This was recognised in an announcement made by the UK Government’s Home Office on 6 August 2021.
Following correspondence, officials from the Executive Office, Northern Ireland have also confirmed that they will make “an amendment to [the legislation] ensure that “pending applicants, late applicants and Joining Family Members” will be included with a provision for people with protected rights.
Guidance on fees paid by CAFRE students is listed on the CAFRE website. Officials from the Executive Office, Northern Ireland have committed to preparing further guidance to provide additional information for potential students and college administrators regarding qualifying persons and their associated fee.
The IMA is continuing to work with officials from the Executive Office, Northern Ireland in respect of the issues raised in this report. In the meantime, any citizen experiencing difficulties in exercising their rights are encouraged to report a complaint through the IMA Portal.
Further information about the IMA and guidance on how to report complaints can also be found on the Website.
 Articles 18(2) and (3) Withdrawal Agreement and 17(2) and (3) EEA EFTA Separation Agreement