Since the resumption of classes over the past few weeks, Irish third-level institutes have been told to operate under Level Three restrictions of the Government’s Living with Covid plan.
The updated guidelines instruct colleges to conduct as many classes online as possible to avoid high numbers of students being required to attend on-campus classes at any one time.
While the majority of classes in institutions around the country are now being held remotely, some practical classes are still being held on-campus, depending on the area of study.
However, due to travel restrictions, many international students studying in Ireland have been forced to remain overseas, taking all their classes remotely.
Despite not being able to attend any physical classes or avail of on-campus services, international students will pay full fees for this academic term.
Fees for non-EU students vary depending on the area of study, the level of study and the institute being attended.
International students contribute an estimated €2.1 billion to the Irish economy annually. Many of these students pay thousands of euros to attend Irish colleges.
An undergraduate course in Business, Engineering, Science and Technology or Arts and Humanities can cost anywhere in the region of €9,850 to €25,500 a year, while Medicine and Health Sciences carry a much higher price tag of between €39,500 to €55,000 per year.
Brian Hearne of the Irish Council for International Students (ICOS) says some international students feel disappointed with the current situation.
“For too long the higher education system has been over reliant on international student fees, as a means of propping up the system which is completely under-funded.
“International students contribute an estimated €2.1 billion to the Irish economy annually. Many of these students pay thousands of euros to attend Irish colleges and unfortunately, due to the Covid restrictions many of them feel a bit aggrieved that they are not getting the full value for money for what they paid for,” said Mr Hearne.
“We’re aware of a number of campaigns going on of students trying to generate support for a refund or some kind of concession for the fees that they have paid.
"In fairness to the third level institutions, most of them do have the infrastructure in place to deliver quality online classes, but unfortunately from the perspective of an international student, taking into account the money that they pay, they just don’t feel like online classes really live up to their expectations,” Mr Hearne added.
Students from overseas are also facing the added financial pressure brought about by a change to the health insurance requirement for obtaining a visa to study here.
Previously, international students from outside the EU were only required to pay €150 for health insurance but this amount is now set to increase.
As of yesterday, non-EU students will have to purchase “community-rated insurance”, costing in excess of €600 per year.
The decision was made as the Health Insurance Authority determined that international students are ‘ordinarily resident’ in the country, meaning they require a different type of cover to what was previously permitted.