Fees gap to be paid by GB students…?

THE decision to freeze student fees here seems to be going down well, but it won’t come without cost. And that cost – half of it – will be borne by the Department of Employment and Learning. It would be difficult to argue that learning should come at the expense of employment services in the middle of a recession when the jobless total is almost twice what the department is budgeted to deal with.

As the Minister said in June, there is already “critical pressure” on the Employment Service. Minister Stephen Farry said that “the service has the budget and staffing to deal with 35,000 people but because of the level of unemployment it is dealing with 60,000”.

To pay for holding fees down, DEL will contribute £20m of the £40m shortfall by 2014/15. That’s a big chunk to absorb, which suggests a new revenue stream will be found. Other departments – excluding health, education and justice – will fork out the other half. Since the Minister has “no plans to take any further savings from the universities”, he must find £20m from elsewhere. Possibly we could follow the Scottish model and charge higher fees to British students from outside this jurisdiction – a concept that’s already being legally challenged.

And there’s another potential problem, as the BBC’s Jim Fitzpatrick outlines:

The executive’s decision to subsidise degrees here for Northern Ireland students will undoubtedly make them more attractive. That increases competition for places and means the grades needed will go up.

Students with weaker results will miss out and have no choice but to pay more across the water – not just in fees, but also in living costs.

The executive’s market intervention could disproportionately penalise poorer students and benefit the well off who might otherwise have taken a degree elsewhere had the price incentive not kept them at home.

But these are the kinds of tough decisions Alliance vowed to take responsibility for as it plays its role in the Executive. As Pete has already mentioned, the Minister plans to make a statement to the Assembly on Monday, so I guess we’ll learn more then.

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  • galloglaigh

    Students with weaker results will miss out and have no choice but to pay more across the water – not just in fees, but also in living costs… The executive’s market intervention could disproportionately penalise poorer students and benefit the well off who might otherwise have taken a degree elsewhere had the price incentive not kept them at home

    So Jim is suggesting that poor student are stupid, and well off students are smart?

  • ayeYerMa

    It’s truly disgusting that in such a situation those from the Republic could benefit more from GB taxpayers than those in GB themselves.

    Any true Unionist should object to such moves. Unfortunately the DUP aren’t really true Unionists so doubt they will.

  • Frustrated Democrat

    This is undoubtedly one of the worst populist decisions taken in the Executive. It is apparent that the FM/DFM took a decision and now reasons are being sought to justify it.

    Once the results of this decision are considered in detail it will quickly become apparent that it is not sustainable to have different fees within the UK in the longer term. The imbalance created will work against the interests of students here regardless of the fee levels set for GB students, either we will have an influx of students from GB if it is low or none if it too high.

    In either case the 8000 students who currently study in GB will have to consider staying here pushing the levels required up and forcing those with lower grades to pay more in GB. The choice of study will also be severly restricted as we do not have a sufficent range of study to fulfill the wishes of students

    The outcome will also be lower investments in our Universities than in England and Wales and a resultant reduction in standards.

    All in all a populist decision without thought about the ramifications.

  • “This is undoubtedly one of the worst populist decisions taken in the Executive.”

    I completely agree and I despair. This is a graphic illustration of the failure of democracy.

    How do you educate voters into thinking more broadly about Government decisions? Some of that responsibility lies with the politicians themselves but I think we need to introduce politics as a compulsory subject in the schools.

  • wild turkey

    Major Seymour

    “but I think we need to introduce politics as a compulsory subject in the schools.”

    uh, for politics, let them read “The Prince”. i am in broad agreement with your analysis and current despair. but despair, so i have read, is the only real sin. therefore, rather than politics, schools should introduce simple economic analysis as a compulsory subject; starting with the concept of opportunity costs and the analytical framework of cost/benefit analysis. they should also be taught the basic maxims of marginal analysis and maximisation theory

    1. consumers maximize utility
    2. firms maximize profits
    (so far so good, now it gets messy)
    3. bureaucrats maximize budgets
    4. politicians maximize votes

    …. and then with an economically astute population we’re back to

    – consumers maximize utility by way of minimising populist politicians

  • Charminator

    ayeYerMa:

    “It’s truly disgusting that in such a situation those from the Republic could benefit more from GB taxpayers than those in GB themselves.”

    A little unnecessary don’t you think? This has nothing to do with the Irish Govt and, in any case, the appropriate reference should be to other EU students, not just Irish. Irish students already have free fees in Scotland and Northern students have been treated the same as students from the 26 counties with respect to free fees in the South too.

    “Unfortunately the DUP aren’t really true Unionists so doubt they will.”

    It must be great, ayeYerMa, to be able to sit in boundless judgment defining who is and is not a true Unionist. Such a monopoly on “truth” is a rare thing indeed.

  • tinman

    Possibly we could follow the Scottish model and charge higher fees to British students from outside this jurisdiction

    Press release confirming this here.

  • tinman

    Sorry – that link didn’t make it through for some reason…

    Possibly we could follow the Scottish model and charge higher fees to British students from outside this jurisdiction

    Press release confirming this here.

  • Reader

    galloglaigh: So Jim is suggesting that poor student are stupid, and well off students are smart?
    No, his argument would follow directly from the assumption that poorer students *on average* get worse A level results than well off ones. Reasons unspecified.
    I wouldn’t want to bet against that assumption – would you?