A leading academic has said she is "filled with horror" at the prospect of students from Northern Ireland having to pay three to five times more in college fees as they will be categorised as non-EU students after Brexit.

Trinity College Professor Jane Ohlmeyer, who is chairwoman of the Irish Research Council, expressed her concerns at this evening's meeting of the Oireachtas Education and Skills Committee.

She has called on the Government to step in to ensure there is one single college fee for students on the island of Ireland.

The Oireachtas Education Committee met this evening to look at the implications of Brexit on the Irish education system.

Responding to questions from Independent Senator Lynn Ruane and Fine Gael Senator Maria Byrne, Professor Ohlmeyer said: "The reality we are facing is that actually a student from the South studying in the North will be treated as non-EU and vice-versa will happen. That fills me with horror, the prospect of that because the non-EU fee is at least three to five times greater that the EU-fee.

"I think this is where the government could be very helpful in really trying to ensure that at least on the island of Ireland, there is a single fee for students studying in Belfast or Dublin.

“Ideally you want it to be East-West as well as North-South but I really think we are going to have to work hard to achieve that."

Brexit 'a major opportunity' for Irish higher education

Brexit represents a major opportunity for higher education and research in Ireland, according to the Higher Education Authority.

In a statement to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Education and Skills, the HEA told TDs that this is its central "unambiguous message" regarding the UK's planned departure from the EU.

The HEA says Ireland will have an opportunity to globally position itself as a distinctive high-quality international hub for higher education and research.

However, it says that investment in the sector should be boosted and new partnerships with other EU higher education institutions should be developed.

It says Brexit creates an opportunity for the Irish third level sector to become a talent magnet, attracting the best students, academics and researchers.

It warns however that Ireland will not have all the opportunities presented by Brexit to itself.

Many European countries are building up English-language provision, and the visibility of Ireland as a destination needs to be improved, it says.

Among concerns expressed by the HEA are the impact of Brexit on student mobility and residency rules, academic mobility and recruitment, and its impact on research collaboration and funding.

The HEA says higher education and research should feature as a key component of Ireland's Brexit strategy.