Special status groups and 'home' fees for HE in Northern Ireland

27 March 2024

The rules that determine whether or not the following categories of student can insist on paying ‘home’ fees for higher education in Northern Ireland are changing a little, for academic years that start on or after 1 August 2024 (even for students who are already on courses):

  • Refugees, and family
  • Those granted humanitarian protection, and family
  • Those with discretionary leave, and family
  • Those granted stateless leave, and family
  • Those with Section 67 leave
  • Persons granted Calais leave to remain
  • Person granted indefinite leave as a victim of domestic violence or abuse
  • Those with indefinite leave as a bereaved partner
  • Persons granted leave under the Afghan Schemes, and family
  • Evacuated or assisted British nationals from Afghanistan
  • Persons granted leave under the Ukraine Schemes, and family

It will be slightly easier to qualify for these categories.


The rules about who pays ‘home’ fees for higher education in Northern Ireland are set by the Northern Ireland Assembly (they are not set by UKCISA). They are set out in regulations, which the Northern Ireland Assembly amends over time.  The regulations identify all the different ‘categories’ of student who can insist on paying at the ‘home’ rate. They set out all the requirements a student needs to meet, to fit one of those categories.

The Northern Ireland Assembly is amending the regulations for the groups listed above.


The changes

The following changes are being made:

  1. Those requirements that relate to the first year of a course will be tested against the day on which the first term of the first academic year actually begins, rather than a standard date like 1 September.

  2. Where one of the immigration statuses in the list above is awarded after the start of a course, it will not matter whether a student’s presence in the UK on the day on which the first term of the first academic year actually began was lawful or not.

  3. In both the Afghan Schemes category and the Ukraine Schemes category, spouses, civil partners and children will now be provided for too - even if their own immigration permission isn’t connected to the Afghan Schemes or Ukraine Schemes. Instead, what will matter is that they were related to the person who has leave under the Afghan or Ukraine Schemes, when that other person made their immigration application (and if they are not a spouse or civil partner, they must have been under 18 then, too).

Points 1 to 3 explain roughly what is happening, but for the full details of all the requirements for each of the categories affected, go to the UKCISA website. We have divided up the information so that you can read separately about:

Fees for any academic year that starts on or after 1 August 2024:

Fees for any academic year that starts before 1 August 2024:


Action for fee assessors

If you are a fee assessor, think about whether any of your existing students might be entitled to benefit from the changes for years that start on or after 1 August 2024, as well as new starters. 

The Afghan Schemes category did have provision for spouses, civil partners and children already, but it was limited to people whose immigration permission was connected to those schemes. If you come across anyone who qualified under the Afghan Schemes category for ‘home’ fees for one year of a course, but doesn’t seem to meet the new requirements from August 2024, you will need to decide whether to carry on charging them ‘home’ fees because of your own policy.

Action for students

If you have previously been told you did not qualify for ‘home’ fees, check to see if you meet the new requirements. Remember that you need to meet all the criteria for any one category. If you do, talk to your fee assessor straightaway, about your fees for academic years that start on or after 1 August 2024. You might want to send them a link to this story.


Further reading

If you want to see the regulations that made the changes, they are the Education (Student Support, etc.) (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2024 (N.I.S.R. 2024 No.19).

You can read about other changes made by the regulations in the following news story on the UKCISA website: