Farry outlines potential models for higher education funding

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Tuesday, March 15th, 2016
Minister for Employment and Learning Dr Stephen Farry has published an options paper outlining the various potential models available to fund higher education in the future, including addressing the structural funding gap and the necessary expansion of provision to meet future economic requirements. farry17Minister Farry said, “Our higher education system is a vital component of our modern, knowledge economy. “It supplies the high level skills which companies need to succeed; it maximises the offer of Northern Ireland to new investors; it stimulates discovery, innovation and knowledge exchange; and, through the opportunities it provides to people whatever their backgrounds, it genuinely changes lives. “A significant funding gap of between £900 and £2,500 per student has emerged between our universities and their English counterparts. In this outgoing financial year there has been a significant loss in local university places, at a time when the premium on higher level skills has never been so high as we prepare for a lower rate of Corporation Tax. He continued, “With ongoing public spending constraints, higher education funding will continue to present a huge challenge in the next Assembly term and beyond. I have been clear that the current funding levels for our higher education system are no longer sustainable. “The Big Conversation was designed to raise awareness of, and seek solutions to, these issues through an innovative process of public engagement. It concluded in October 2015 and its findings have already helped to inform the budget preparation process for the 2016-17 financial year.
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LearnSpark1“While some limited resources have been made available which may prevent any further cuts to higher education, the structural funding gap will continue to present a huge challenge. “This paper outlines the full spectrum of options available for us to resource higher education in a sustainable way in the future, along with their respective cost implications. Farry added, “The paper does not advocate any particular model. Rather, it is intended to aid consideration of these critical issues by a new Executive after the 2016 Assembly election and inform a decision on the preferred way forward.”
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