17/12/2004

Getting a job more difficult with no qualifications

Getting a job in Northern Ireland is getting harder for those with no qualifications, acting Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ulster has said.

Speaking to graduates at Limavady College of Further and Higher Education, Professor Richard Barnett said that employment projects from the Department for Education and Learning anticipated a decline of 30% by 2010 in job opportunities for those with no qualifications.

This would not be helped, he warned, by the Government's proposed top-up fees for university students.

“The Government must recognise that debt aversion is a greater roadblock to participation in higher education in Northern Ireland than in any other part of the UK,” Professor Barnett said. “It must also accept the evidence that the proposed fees, without a proper student maintenance package, will significantly affect participation from average middle class families as well as those from social disadvantaged groups.”

During the past decade, he said, there has been a 500% increase in student debt according to research from Barclay's Bank, and the debt burden is expected to triple by 2010.

Professor Barnett said the University would like to see partly deferred fees for part-time students whose needs have been historically under-recognised in legislation.

“Academic ability and not affordability must govern access to higher education in Northern Ireland”, he added.

(MB/SP)

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