Belfast Telegraph

Executive pressed over student fees

The Northern Ireland Executive has been pressed to make a swift decision on student fees.

University of Ulster vice-chancellor Professor Richard Barnett spoke out after Employment and Learning Minister Danny Kennedy published a consultation document with five options.

They included a proposed doubling of fees to almost £6,000 per year, and though this was the route effectively recommended by an independent review, Mr Kennedy said he would not identify a preferred outcome for the consultation.

The Ulster Unionist minister said a decision would fall to politicians after the May 5 Assembly elections.

But Professor Barnett said: "It is disappointing that he has not come forward with a definitive proposal which, no matter what it was, given the difficult budgetary situation, many of us would have understood the reason for making such a decision.

"It is vital that a decision is made by mid-summer - otherwise students wishing to attend Northern Ireland universities in 2012 may be denied access to loans by the Student Loans Company.

"The next Executive owes these young people and their parents - who are already trying to make a decision about their choice of university - a speedy resolution."

Mr Kennedy launched a consultation document at the Assembly which included five options ranging from abolishing fees to matching the jump of up to £9,000 in England.

His consultation document also included an option to raise fees, currently capped at £3,290, to either £4,500 or to between £5,000 and £5,750, which was the choice effectively recommended by a separate independent review, while also making grant aid available to a greater numbers of students.

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