Have we woken up to the uni revolution?

Have I missed a burning debate about university tuition fees in NI? I thought not.  But better late than never. It’s surely obvious that Joanne Stuart’s recommendation to keep them at their present £3290  level is out of date – if it ever was up to date.

The DEL report is understood to favour keeping the current fees and improving maintenance grants.

Sir Reg has hinted that the financial crisis could affect any moves to be more generous to students.

“This is a devolved matter, we have to look at our own circumstances,” Sir Reg said.

 You can say that again Reg. Among topic for ( overdue?) consultation.

  • Can Queen’s stay in the elite Russsell Group of universities without putting up  fees considerably?
  • Can the UU afford its move from Jordanstown to the centre of Belfast?
  •  What is the likely effect on total student numbers?  I would expect  UK student numbers as a whole  to fall – a move not unwelcome in Whitehall I suspect. It seems  to mean the final abandonment of the 50% target of all young people to attend university.

I predict the number of NI students attending Scottish universities will also fall.

Where will the pinch be felt most? Among middle earning families.

Incidentally how can fees be gathered from former students of the NI unis who work in the Republic?

I haven’t any idea of what’s been happening over NI students wanting to go to uni in the Republic. Anybody know?

In Scotland where the SNP government ares still holding out against tuition fees for Scots,  I’ll bet they’re preparing to take a trip back down the yellow brick road to reality  -whatever education secretary Mick Russell is saying in public.

In Scotland, tuition fees were abolished in 2000, two years after their introduction by the Blair government.

A one-off graduate endowment fee of just over £2,000 was scrapped by Scottish ministers in 2008.

On Monday, Sir Andrew Cubie, whose inquiry in 1999 recommended the abolition of up-front tuition fees, said it would now be difficult to sustain a system which did not incorporate fees.

He said: “I think we’re back to a point where graduate payments are required.”

Apart from all that, Lord Browne’s report has some really good ideas for improving teaching standards and for giving students better value for money all round. Not before time. Some will mourn the end of the arms-length principle for funding universities but in realty it all but ended years ago. Greater government control of public funding wil be  balanced by some flexibility over the top limit of new fees (” the soft cap”).

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London