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Northern Ireland university fees may rise after u-turn

The report recommends tuition fees should be nearly doubled as Northern Ireland faces a shortfall of up to £65m in the higher education sector.

Queen's University in Belfast
Queen's University in Belfast
Image: Paul Faith/PA Wire/Press Association Images

TUITION FEES FOR universities in Northern Ireland could almost double according to a new report.

A report by the Northern Ireland’s Institute of Directors chair Joanne Stuart recommends that fees be increased to a maximum of £5,750 (€6,774). Stuart had previously recommended that fees should be frozen at their current level of £3,290 (€3,876).

However  in an apparent u-turn she has said the cap must be lifted from the start of the 2012-13 academic year in order to meet a potential shortfall in HE funding in Northern Ireland of between £40m and £65m a year.

This is also as a response to the increase in fees in England and Wales which could lead to some universities charging up to £9,000 per year for higher education.

The updated report, which has been delivered to NI Minister for Employment and Learning Danny Kennedy, also recommends that students should not be required to repay loans until they are earning £21,000 (€24,730) a year.

Kennedy said the proposal was now a “key consideration” for his department which will be launching a public consultation document where views will be sought on proposals for any future student finance arrangements. He said in a statement:

We need to find the balance between the level of tuition fees and how much public finance should be given to the universities.  This needs to be done within the context of the current financial and economic realities, particularly those that face my Department.

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Hugh O'Connell

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