In recent days, it has been confirmed that NI Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris has directed civil servants to explore raising tuition fees from £4,630 to £7,000 per year.
This comes alongside a reduction of 300 student nursing placements and reduced physiotherapy training places.
NUS-USI, the union representing students in higher and further education across Northern Ireland, recently published their Cost of Survival Report which highlighted the financial pressures that many students are experiencing, with many unable to meet the basic costs of continuing their education.
The report made a series of recommendations to support students at what has been an extremely difficult time, however with subsequent announcements that will pile further costs onto students, it is clear that higher and further education will become unaffordable for many.
This contrasts with a report launched today (Tuesday 15 May) which found that international students contributed £1billion to the economy in Northern Ireland.
NUS-USI President Chloe Ferguson said:
“The recent proposed announcements are an assault on students in Northern Ireland from every direction. Students, more than ever before, are under the pressure of a financial crisis that treats their survival as an unwinnable prize, and we have been sounding the alarm to officials and politicians.
“By increasing tuition fees, we will see a sharp decline in the diversity of people accessing higher education. This will undo years of progress in making higher education more accessible. This not only punishes future learners but will also undermine economic growth and ambition.
“Words and platitudes about economic investment mean nothing without the people to deliver this, and it is our incredible pool of learners in higher and further education that ultimately enable economic prosperity.
“The same can be said for our health service. Cutting student nursing and physiotherapy places is going to exacerbate the existing nursing shortage, crippling a system that is already on its knees.”
Ferguson is calling on politicians to get back to Stormont:
“Our future is on the line. Unchecked policy decisions will cause devastating harm to our young people and their future.
“Enough is enough. It’s time for politicians to get back to the jobs that people elected them to carry out.
"We are urging all political parties to come together and form an Assembly now and work together to find a way out of this mess.”
Notes to Editors:
- More information about NUS-USI can be found at: About - NUS-USI
- A copy of the Cost of Survival report can be found at: Cost of Survival Report - NUS-USI
- Photo caption: Recent NUS-USI demonstration for free public transport for students
- Any questions can be directed to Cris Cloyd at [email protected]i.com or by calling 07938 467094