DAERA weighs up changes to CAFRE tuition fees

Northern Ireland’s Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) has announced it will review the fees charged at the region’s agricultural colleges.

The public consultation will ask for views over what students should be charged to study at the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE).

CAFRE provides a range of full and part-time Further and Higher Education courses, in addition to industry short courses, covering agriculture, food, equine, horticulture and business for agri-food and rural enterprise across its three campuses.

Options currently considered include increasing fees to sit on par with English providers of similar courses – which could see fees rise as high as £9,250.

The options outlined in the consultation include:

  • 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.

This engagement exercise is a result of a review of the tuition fee-charging policy for Higher Education courses at CAFRE carried out by DAERA in 2017-2018.


The review found that CAFRE fees are currently the lowest of all Higher Education providers in Northern Ireland and all sampled institutions in Scotland, Wales, England and the Republic of Ireland.

Even within the college, it found a wide variation in fees. Fees charged currently depending on the course studied.

For example, most full-time CAFRE students paid £1,595 in 2017-2018 but those studying Agricultural Technology in conjunction with QUB paid £4,030 for the academic year.

Part-time and postgraduate students studying at CAFRE do not currently pay tuition fees.

The review was driven by:

  • The ongoing variation in fees charged within CAFRE for higher education courses, and the variation with fees charged by other Higher Education providers in Northern Ireland;
  • The need to consider increasing pressure on departmental budgets; and
  • The strategic policy direction of the DAERA Knowledge Framework.

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

Consultation responses must be received by Friday, April 12, 2019.