Northern Ireland colleges plan to cut 1,100 student places

Northern Ireland’s universities are expected to cut student numbers by up to 1,100 next September, as a result of an executive budget announced earlier this month.

It is estimated that the Department for Learning and Employment will lose almost £81m in next year’s budget.

The vice chancellors of the universities, Patrick Johnson of Queens and Richard Barnett of Ulster, confirmed in a joint statement that their spending power would be cut by “at least 10.8 per cent, putting the future of Northern Ireland’s economy at risk.”

Both Johnson and Barnett said that students would now be forced to go to universities in England, where they will pay fees of up to £9,000.

“In effect, the executive will be encouraging local talent to leave Northern Ireland whilst subsidising universities in England and Scotland.”

They said that the loss of these students will not only be very damaging to the universities, but also the entire province, as they are the “the lifeblood of local and international businesses, the research base and ultimately, our economy.”

It stated that, “reducing the number of graduates will affect the skills base and ultimately have a devastating impact on this region’s investment proposition.”

The chancellors said that it will be difficult to predict the consequences of the cuts on the world-wide research carried out by both universities.

“Some of the world’s greatest advances have been pioneered by our universities and Northern Ireland has the second fastest growing knowledge economy in the UK. The decision to cut the higher education budget places this achievement, and our future, at risk.”

When asked what their immediate plan is due to the cuts, a University of Ulster spokesperson said, “Ulster University is facing unprecedented cuts, the impact of which is currently being discussed. A number of scenarios are being considered but no decisions have yet been made.”

Carina Canavan

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