28/06/2004

Improved maintenance package needed says UU Vice-Chancellor

The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ulster has called on Government to introduce a "substantial student maintenance package" to help young people in Northern Ireland make the most of the life-changing opportunities offered by a university education.

Professor PG McKenna said his University also wanted to see a system of targeted bursaries put in place to enable underrepresented groups to benefit from third level education as well as the introduction of partly-deferred fees for self-funding part-time students - a group whose needs have historically been under recognised in legislation.

Speaking at the Coleraine campus, were Prof. McKenna was addressing the first of 13 graduation ceremonies being held at the University over the next two weeks, he said: “On this basis, Northern Ireland could develop a properly pluralist and inclusive community, founded upon equality of opportunity and access to higher education on the basis of talent and not privilege.

“The skills base of our economy would gain from access to the scholarship, knowledge, skills and technical talents of all its people and not the chosen few.

“My message to government is that we cannot afford to perpetuate social exclusion, especially with the continuing slow growth in the rate of knowledge industries in Northern Ireland.

“We must demonstrate faith in ourselves - and in our future.”

In January, Education Secretary Charles Clarke promised that the poorest 30% of students would be guaranteed at least £3,000 a year from 2006 onwards, under plans announced by the Government.

Under the plans, poorer students will benefit from a maintenance grant of £1,500 a year, increased from £1,000 a year, and a fee grant of £1,200 so the poorest students don't pay the first £1,200 of their fees.

The government also said that it is considering combining the two grants to a single grant of £2,700 a year.

(MB)

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