Queen’s University Belfast: Higher Education funding challenges will create inequality and constrain NI Economy

That was the message from Professor Ian Greer during an introduction to the CBI’s ‘An Audience with Northern Ireland’s Political Leaders’ which was attended by representatives of the main political parties and set out to explore their ambitions for economic growth post next week’s Assembly Elections.

Professor Greer told the audience that NI is the only region in the UK which has reduced government investment in Higher Education during that period.

He revealed that 30 per cent of 18 year olds in Northern Ireland – around 5,000 – leave these shores to go to university in Great Britain and fewer than a third ever return.

And with the significant demographic trend of 18 year olds on an upward trajectory, universities need to increase places by 19 per cent, 4,750 places, just to maintain current opportunities for school leavers at current levels.

Professor Greer said: “The Northern Ireland Executive has set out its ambitious 10x economic strategy. In order to achieve its goals in attracting Foreign Direct Investment and as well as supporting local employers who will create more and better jobs, universities need to be able to meet the needs of young people and the economy.

“It is clear that we are facing a range of challenges, including the cost of living, health and many others across our society. A successful economy is crucial to resolving all these issues and currently we have skill shortages and hard to fill vacancies across many sectors.

“The USP (unique selling point) for Northern Ireland in recent years has been a young, talented and affordable workforce, the loss of so many young people to GB universities and with so few being attracted home, is starting to put this at risk.

“Instead of proposals to increase funding, it is looking likely that universities will face further cuts which unfortunately will lead to reduction to the number of university places available to school leavers.

“Investment in our young people will bring the long term, inclusive economic benefits we all want to see. It will also maximise the potential of our universities to work in partnership with government and industry to boost innovation and mark NI as a region for growth and investment.

“We can achieve this by working together, creating a triple helix of government, industry and universities & colleges working together to ensure that all of our citizens have the opportunity to fulfil their potential and play a full and meaningful role in our future.”

Comments are closed.