NI University tuition fees to be kept at current levels, “subject only to an inflationary rise”

As the BBC reports, Northern Ireland Employment and Learning Minister, Stephen Farry, has confirmed that the bread promised by the First and deputy First Ministers in July, will be on the menu.

But we’ll have to wait until Monday to see the details – the NI Assembly being the appropriate place to make such an announcement.  [But we need headlines now! – Ed]  Indeed.

Those details would include whether or not the proposals include students from England, Scotland and Wales.

Because there are consequences – beyond “top-slicing money from several other departments” to pay for it [£40million?  Per year?].  As the BBC NI political editor Mark Devenport points out

Some fears have been expressed that setting the fees so low could attract students from elsewhere in the UK, thereby increasing the competition for local university places.

This is likely to be countered by setting a higher fee for English, Scottish and Welsh students, so that no dramatic saving would be made by picking Queens or the University of Ulster.

This option, if approved, could bring Stormont into the firing line for the human rights lawyer who has already announced plans to challenge a similar regime in Scotland as discriminatory.

But setting that legal challenge to one side, a low local tuition fee could change the market for degrees amongst home grown students.

Back in February I reported on the figures contained in Joanne Stuart’s report which showed that whilst there were only 165 English first year students at Northern Ireland universities, there were more than 8,000 Northern Ireland students enrolled at universities across the water.

If prospective students are more reluctant to travel in the future it would put pressure on places at the two local universities.

Both scenarios could make it more difficult for Northern Ireland students to find places in Northern Ireland universities.

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  • rodgerdoc

    By what i’ve heard through work and union meetings this morning, indeed student fees here will only rise by inflation with fees for students coming from outside of NI rising slightly more. However as the report states that means an extra £40 million is going to have to be shaved off other departments budgest to help pay for this.

    The executive is effectively robbing peter to pay paul, however that brings it’s own problems as every time thy divert money from another department to put out the fire in one department they are then creating another fire in another department and so the cycle continues.

    This assembly, this british government are going to sink this country into a much deeper recession than what it is already in. Expect far more cutbacks, expect far more job losses.

  • Barnshee

    “This assembly, this british government are going to sink this country into a much deeper recession than what it is already in. Expect far more cutbacks, expect far more job losses”

    Why the fuck should the English taxpayer pay to keep NI students at an advantage If you want more money —shouts —=RAISE IT YOURSELVES -hint Lower Corporation Tax take will not help

  • I note that inflation in the UK is presently 4.2% (annualized rate of 5%) but wages have only risen 2.9% on average. A bit of a squeeze for students who have to work part time.

  • Pete Baker

    Focus, gentlemen.

  • OneNI

    ‘Expect far more cutbacks, expect far more job losses.’
    I agree we will be living with the consequences of the last Labour Govt for many many years.

    The better news is that the Treasury reckons the deficit reduction plan – while costing savers has saved homeowners over £50bn in the last year or so.

    Pro rata that probably means saving NI homeowners somewhere over £500m.

    Osborne’s willingness to take tough decisions is in sharp contrast to our local Assembly

  • Thrust of this post is that the demand side of the market for Northern Ireland Universities will change because of the differential in tuition fees.

    I am not sure about the 8,000 NI students who usually get educated outside Northern Ireland. How many of these students go abroad because they are already rejected by Northern Ireland Universities?

    There is also an assumption that the only or main concern for the student contemplating his/her choice of university is the size of the fee. A Northern Ireland Student contemplating a top university, such as Cambridge, is much more likely to give proper weight to the quality and prestige of the university.

    I dont think the NI students being educated elsewhere will make much of a difference to competition. However, I do believe that an increase in applications from England would be game-changing.

  • lamhdearg

    pete, (or anyone)
    can you explain (to a simpleton) why E.U. law allows Scotland/N.I. to discriminate against other Britons in this way. also would the payback from English(or any outside) students coming here and spending money on rents, food, drink, ect, not offset the losses (of reduced fees), and if so would it not be better to build more uni’s, as a source of income for the country (N.I.).

  • lamhdearg

    can you explain (to a simpleton) why E.U. law allows Scotland/N.I. to discriminate against other Britons in this way

    It doesn’t but it will take at least a year before the justice system catches up with the decision.

  • rodgerdoc

    @lamhdearg

    There is currently an ongoing legal case for scotland taking such measures, I expect the same here.

    Extra students coming here would not offset the losses, they would have to spend a hell of a lot of money for the economy to show a 40 million profit to break even.

  • Pete Baker

    Seymour

    “Thrust of this post is that the demand side of the market for Northern Ireland Universities will change because of the differential in tuition fees.”

    Well, it’s a suggested outcome.

    “I am not sure about the 8,000 NI students who usually get educated outside Northern Ireland.”

    I read that figure as just those students studying English.

    “There is also an assumption that the only or main concern for the student contemplating his/her choice of university is the size of the fee.”

    Well, perhaps not the main concern. But what the post centres on is those students without the ability to pick the university of their choice.

    If they’re not able to offset the cost against a ‘better’ university degree then that will be a factor.

    Lower costs here, rather than within the UK, will mean greater competition among the less qualified for the remaining places.

    Some might argue that is not a bad thing, as it raises the standard for university entry within Northern Ireland.

    But it would mean fewer Northern Ireland students accessing university education unless they could afford the higher fees elsewhere.

  • BluesJazz

    It changes very little. Except for medical students at QUB (for whom it’s a nice bonus). It just means a slightly lesser debt for arts graduates to pay off if they ever get a job. And if they do ASDA doesn’t do jobs above 21K. The science graduates will be flocking to England anyway.

  • turnpike

    The Universities in Nothern Ireland are bog standard (to put it politely) at present. This will only make them less able to compete with universities in the rest of the UK, Europe.

  • BluesJazz

    turnpike, we know this.

    It’s not about the fact that our universities are FE standard, it’s about ‘enabling’ thick people to get crap degrees for parochial politicial purposes.
    And expecting phantom US investors to put money here in the near distant future (ie when the present politicians have left the scene) when this is unlikely anyway.
    Mirage economics from politicians past *caring*.
    But, that’s democracy!!

  • (£40m to be siphoned off to plug the shortfall, £20m from other departments and £20m from internal savings within DEL)

    Not a bad idea, it could be the model for the future.

    Step 1 prepare your budget
    Step 2 quantify your deficit, surpluses unneccessary and frowned upon
    Step 3 raise money from fellow departments (no loans, just straight transfers)
    Step 4 fail to implement cuts arising from internal efficiency savings
    Step 5 implement cuts arising from enforced money transfers
    Step 6 Recurring
    Step 7 “I can categorically deny that any cuts are a result of internal funding pressures within my Department, we currently achieve thirty three pounds value for every pound we spend (projected to rise to forty seven pounds next year, see Notes to Editors ). Any retrenchment is the product of inter Departmental monetary transfers which, frankly, are not my or my Department’s responsibility. Indeed, I as Minister, cannot be held accountable for any monies voted to my Department and then top sliced , that would be ludicrous; similarly I cannot be held accountable for failed programmes based on fully informed budgets subsequently trimmed.”

  • aquifer

    “There is also an assumption that the only or main concern for the student contemplating his/her choice of university is the size of the fee. A Northern Ireland Student contemplating a top university, such as Cambridge, is much more likely to give proper weight to the quality and prestige of the university.”

    Or leave Northern Ireland if the universities are not good enough, because their low fee levels do not enable them to recruit the best academics.

    Universities can make or break a place. We need to be exceptional not provincial.

    The fee can be a signal however, telling students what to expect in terms of quality of staff and students.

    Cheap may not end up cheerful.

  • aquifer,

    Genuine question. Apart from Oxford and Cambridge, do you think that employers of graduates pay a lot of attention to which university awarded the degree?

  • £20 million from DEL, £20m from ALL the other departments?!

    Hmm… I get the feeling Dr Farry may have been pushed into a corner.

  • joeCanuck – yes, I can say categorically that top employers definitely do – at least for their graduates (it matters less once you have experience to fall back on)