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Report urges university fees freeze for Northern Ireland

University tuition fees in Northern Ireland should not be increased, a leaked Government review has recommended.

The Institute of Directors report also calls for more information to be made available about how universities are spending the money they make from top-up fees, according to Queen’s University’s student newspaper The Gown.

It is believed the report will be read by the Minister for Employment and Learning Sir Reg Empey before being put out for consultation in the near future.

However, the department has stressed that the report will not be finished for a number of weeks.

The recommendations will be welcomed by the families of students across the province who have faced a hike in fees in recent years, but universities are likely to be disappointed by the report in light of recent funding cuts.

Extracts from the Stuart Report, published in The Gown, question the benefits that students in universities here are getting by paying higher fees. The report states that the review body “found it difficult to link the additional income generated from the introduction of variable fees with an improved student experience”.

The report continued: “Currently, only a portion of the income generated through the increase in student fees in 2006 has been ring-fenced for reporting purposes.

“There should be greater transparency of how additional income from fees is being spent.”

The recommendations come just a week after the Belfast Telegraph revealed calls from a think tank to increase fees across United Kingdom universities to more than £5,000.

A Policy Exchange paper entitled More Fees Please urged the government to increase fees to combat student loan debt, which currently stands at £25 billion.

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