Student leaders discuss financial options to help end tuition fees at conference
ENDING tuition fees and increasing investment in third level education will counteract the potential negative impact of Brexit, students will hear today.
The annual NUS-USI conference in Derry will today debate a motion about how to deliver the funding to end fees.
Before last year's assembly election, options for securing a sustainable higher education system were published. Annual costs ranging from £6,500 to £9,000 were being considered.
Full-time fees for home and EU students are £4,030 per year.
Scotland is among the regions that offers free university education to `home' students.
The NUS-USI motion will outline several options for delivering increased funding, from creating an increased regional rates system based upon ability pay, to scrapping industrial de-rating which costs £58 million annually and reducing spending elsewhere.
Union president Olivia Potter-Hughes said that ending tuition fees and increasing investment would provide hope and opportunity for the future.
"It is crucial that action is taken to scrap tuition fees and invest more money in FE and HE, as this will enable Northern Ireland to create opportunities and boost the economy, while also addressing potential negative impacts of Brexit and political instability," she said.
"Many students and young people currently feel that they may need to move away to gain the educational or career opportunities they want to access as a result of these issues.
Northern Ireland needs to send out a message to students and young people that they can have a future of hope and opportunity here, and scrapping fees would send out this message loudly and clearly. For Northern Ireland to maximise economic potential, it needs to invest more in its people and their skills."
Ms Potter-Hughes added that devolved government needed to return and said any political vacuum simply added to the instability there was as a result of Brexit.
"We also believe that Invest NI funding should be reduced to focus spending priorities on skills and apprenticeships, and this could mean better value for money and could deliver more impact for our economy in the longer-term. All of these separate plans would help raise or free-up funding for tertiary education, ensure fees can be scrapped, and deliver additional investment for FE and HE," she said.
"NUS-USI is putting forward positive and realistic ideas on delivering additional funding for FE and HE. It is incumbent upon government that that they employ innovative ways of scrapping tuition fees and deliver additional training and apprenticeship opportunities for people here."