Students 'must be central in political decisions for Northern Ireland to thrive'
Students must be placed at the heart of political decision making if Northern Ireland is to become a vibrant and prosperous society, their representatives have urged.
The NUS-USI stressed the importance of educating and training the next generation as it launched a manifesto for the forthcoming Assembly election.
The Owning Our Future document outlines a series of proposals the students' union insists can deliver equality and make Northern Ireland a more prosperous place to live, work and learn.
Ahead of the manifesto launch at Titanic Belfast on Friday, president of NUS-USI Fergal McFerran said: "NUS-USI has travelled the length and breadth of Northern Ireland over the last seven months, visiting university and college campuses to speak to our student body.
"The hundreds of conversations that we've had have informed our student manifesto and I can say with confidence that our students look to the future with an ambitious optimism.
"This is a critical time. Cuts have damaged our economy. Action is needed to build for the future, and investing in education is central to delivering equality and more prosperous society.
"We want all political parties to recognise the huge role that higher and further education plays in delivering equality, fairness and a thriving economy with the interests of our citizens at its heart."
Mr McFerran said students were finding it extremely difficult to make ends meet.
"It is crucial that tuition fees are scrapped, education is publicly funded and that all student support is increased in line with inflation to meet the massive rise in living costs down the years," he said.
"A relatively small amount of investment could very significantly boost student support through inflationary rises, and could help remove the burden of fee debt from students."