Following the decision of the Executive last Thursday to hold tuition fees at existing levels, we were extremely disappointed to read the leading article in your newspaper the following day (Friday, September 9), entitled 'Clumsy fees move exposes Stormont', which was misleading and which jarred with the mood among students, their families, the wider public and university representatives interviewed from Queen's University, Belfast.
The role of the Higher Education sector is crucial to the overall economy with the quality of our university graduates a key attraction for potential inward investors. Both our parties, and others, made manifesto pledges not to increase tuition fees and the electorate endorsed those pledges in the recent Assembly elections. We are at a loss as to why the Belfast Telegraph would seek to unpick such a widely democratically endorsed position.
The article states that this decision "inevitably means a reduction in services and training opportunities for young people and the unemployed". How could you adopt this position without knowing the detail of what Minister Farry announced to the Assembly? You will now know from his statement that the Executive decision will in no way impact upon Further Education services or those services which are specifically targeted towards the unemployed.
In conclusion, this decision demonstrates how the Executive is working for the people; five parties collectively and unanimously reaching a decision.
The Rt Hon Peter D Robinson, MLA First Minister
Martin McGuinness, MP, MLA
Deputy First Minister