FIANNA Fáil TD Michael McGrath has accused University College Cork (UCC) of using non-EU medicine students as a "cash cow" while Irish students are left without places.
Non-EU students are liable for higher fees than EU students, and in recent years UCC has both increased their fees and taken in more of them.
Figures released to Mr McGrath through parliamentary questions showed that the total income from non-EU medicine students rose from €7.2 million in 2010/2011 to €13.5 million last year, and that individual fees per student rose from €39,200 to €47,000 during that same time period.
The number of non-EU students also rose faster than the number of Irish students during that time. According to his figures, at undergraduate level there was 19 non-EU students and 100 EU students in 2010/11, and that rose to 41 non-EU students and 135 EU students by 2015/2016. For graduate entry medicine, it went from 24 non-EU students and 51 EU students in 2010/2011 up to 34 non-EU students and 71 EU students in 2015/2016.
"While I recognise the importance of international students for UCC and other Universities, it seems to me this source of income has become a real cash cow for Universities but at the expense of many Irish students who are being denied the opportunity to study medicine in their home country," said Mr McGrath.
"Since 2010, 35% of UCC's undergraduate medicine places have gone to non-EU students and these students are paying massive fees for the privilege of studying here. When it comes to graduate entry medicine places, the figures are even more stark with over 46% of places in UCC going to non-EU students," he said.
Mr McGrath said that UCC's financial reliance on students made was displacing Irish students from the college.
"I know of several families in Cork who are making incredible sacrifices to fund their son or daughter studying medicine in the UK because they couldn't get a place here. Many other students who would love to study medicine simply miss out on that opportunity entirely because so many places in UCC and other Universities are going to international students.
"I think we need a real debate as to whether the approach taken by UCC and other Universities is fair. My own personal view is that the Universities have become overly dependent on this source of income and Irish students who want to study medicine here are the ones unfairly paying the price," he said.
UCC had not responded to a request for a comment at the time of going to print.