The Irish government has made a St Patrick’s Day gesture to emigrants and lowered third level college fees for their children.

As a result Irish emigrant families living outside the European Union will pay less to have their sons and daughters educated at home.

The Irish Times reports that the cut was announced on St Patrick’s Day by Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn.

It will benefit migrants who moved their families to the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Asia, and other regions outside the EU.

Previously Irish children resident outside the EU were forced to pay the full international fee, which equates to the economic cost of providing the place in the institution.

The paper reports that international fees for non-EU students range from €8,000 ($11,300) to over €20,000 ($27,800) per academic year, depending on the course and the institution.

The average level of fees is well over €10,000 ($13,900).

By comparison undergraduates from Ireland and other EU countries pay a €2,500 ($3,500) annual contribution to academic fees.

The Irish Times says the new arrangement will benefit children who spent at least five years in total in primary or post-primary education in Ireland or in the EU. Under the new arrangement they will be charged the same rate as other EU nationals to study in Ireland.

Arrangements for the new scheme to be introduced in time for the 2014-2015 academic year.

Minister Quinn said, “The economic upheaval that this country has been through has seen many of our citizens move abroad in search of work.

“But, as our situation improves, we are already seeing more families moving home and this is very welcome.

“I want to ensure that the children of these migrants are not penalized when it comes to attending third level.

Galway University president Prof James Browne welcomed the move.

He said, “The children of people who have lived overseas have found that because they were not living here, they were forced to pay non-EU fees.

“People who have to leave the country to work should not be penalized in that way.”