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February 15, 2019

Have your say – CAFRE higher education tuition fees stakeholder engagement

The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) has launched a public consultation on the future direction of tuition fees at the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE).

Currently CAFRE students pay varying tuition fees depending on the type of higher education course studied. Full-time honours and foundation degrees in equine and food and foundation degrees in horticulture and agriculture are charged at the basic tuition fee permitted in NI however a full-time honours degree in agricultural technology is charged at the maximum level permitted. Part-time degree courses and postgraduate courses are not charged a tuition fee (although a small validation fee may be required).  The tuition fee variation extends to comparison with Ulster University and Queen’s University Belfast, with these two institutions charging the maximum amount permitted for undergraduate degree courses.

In 2017/18 DAERA conducted a review of Higher Education (HE) Tuition Fee policy at CAFRE to establish if there is a rationale to continue with such a variation in fees.

The review took into account three key factors:

  • The ongoing variation in fees charged within CAFRE for higher education courses, and the variation with fees charged by other HE providers in Northern Ireland;
  • The need to consider increasing pressure on departmental budgets within the context of the on-going costs of higher education courses delivered at CAFRE; and
  • The strategic policy direction of the DAERA Knowledge Framework (this sets out the rationale for DAERA’s involvement in education, training and technology exchange, the nature of its interventions and what the Department seeks to achieve).

Emerging findings of the review were presented to stakeholders at a focus group in June 2018 and this led to discussion and consideration of potential options for setting the future direction of tuition fee policy.

The Department is seeking to gather stakeholder views on a wide range of options to inform future decisions on the long-term direction of tuition fee policy for CAFRE students. The options included in the document range from charging no fees for degree courses, maintaining the current charging framework, applying differential fees, applying fees consistent with those set by local universities, or considering fee setting frameworks similar to land based colleges in England.

All the Consultation Documents, including how to respond, the HE Tuition Fees Review and the Equality Impact Assessment and Rural Needs Assessment are available to view on the DAERA website.

The Department welcomes all those with an interest in this important area to submit their views by Friday 3 May 2019.

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