29/10/2004

UU Vice-Chancellor hits out at government proposals

Professor Gerry McKenna, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ulster, today expressed his “disappointment and concern” following the announcement of government proposals for the funding of higher education in Northern Ireland from 2006.

In the proposals, Employment and Learning Minister Barry Gardiner said the government planned to introduce variable deferred fees in line with those in England, set at £3,000, up from £1,100.

The main elements of the draft legislation will see:
  • providers of higher education wishing to charge higher fees must have in place an approved plan for increasing participation by under-represented groups, including those from low income households;
  • the requirement for providers of higher education courses charging variable fees above the basic rate to have their plans approved by the Department for Employment and Learning and to abide by those plans;
  • that students taking a gap year in academic year 2005/06 will pay fees at the rate that would have been in place had they started their course in 2005.
Responding to the proposals, Professor McKenna said: “As they stand, the proposals will deter, not encourage, many thousands of talented people from enjoying the benefits of a university education.

“They represent a failure to understand the disadvantaged position of Northern Ireland, not only in Europe but as one of the 13 regions of the United Kingdom. Government has failed to take the opportunity to invest in local people. We must dismantle the barriers to higher education, not erect new ones.”

Other proposals which are not part of the legislation will see from April 2005 the starting point at which former students begin to repay their loans will increase from £10,000 to £15,000.

For students starting their studies in 2006 or later the government will write off all student loan balances left unpaid 25 years after they have left their course.

Despite this the Vice-Chancellor warned that Northern Ireland’s lack of skills base was to the detriment of the local community and economy.

“Northern Ireland is one of the most disadvantaged regions in the European Union,” Professor McKenna said.

“Only 1 in 10 of our people has a first degree and only 1 in 20 has a postgraduate qualification. This is not adequate to meet the skills base of a competitive innovation-driven knowledge economy in the 21st century. The University of Ulster’s package of proposals would address those realities.

“I call upon the Minister to look at them again and I call upon Northern Ireland’s political leaders and those in industry, commerce and the professions to support the University of Ulster’s common sense package,” he added.

(MB/GMCG)

Related Northern Ireland News Stories
Click here for the latest headlines.

03 September 2021
Northern Ireland's Taxi Industry Is Facing A Crisis
Northern Ireland's taxi industry is facing a crisis, William McCausland, CEO of fonaCAB, has said as he calls on Stormont to recognise the role it plays in the economy and engage with the sector to resolve issues for operators, drivers and the businesses and passengers.
15 September 2021
Devolved Govt's Call For Proof Of Status For EU Citizens
The UK's devolved government of NI, Scotland and Wales have issued a joint letter calling for EU citizens to be be offered physical proof of their settled or pre-settled status.
15 September 2021
SDLP Seeking To Fast Track Legislation To Stop Stormont Collapse
The SDLP has called on Boris Johnson to commit to legislation to secure the sustainability of power sharing in Northern Ireland and for it be fast tracked through Westminster.
15 September 2021
IFA Must Maintain Positive Relationship With 'Green And White Army' - DUP
The Irish Football Association (IFA) must prioritise maintaining a positive relationship "with the Green and White Army", the DUP's North Belfast MLA William Humphrey has said. Mr Humphrey's made the comment ahead of a meeting between the IFA and the Amalgamation of Official Northern Ireland Supporters Clubs.
14 September 2021
High Street Scheme To Open From 27 September
The £100 Spend Local pre-paid card High Street Scheme (HSS) will be open from 27 September until 25 October, Economy Minister Gordon Lyons has announced. During a visit to Belfast's Ormeau Road - which was recently announced as Retail NI's High Street of the Year - the Minister announced also announced a number of other key dates.