Belfast Telegraph

Brightest students leaving in thousands

By Symon Ross

Northern Ireland is suffering a brain drain because 20,000 of its brightest young people choose to study in Great Britain, according to a report published today.

Lobby group University for Derry (U4D), formed by business and community leaders to push for an expansion of the university in the north-west, said half of those who study elsewhere do not return to Northern Ireland.

It claimed an extra two universities are required if Northern Ireland is to match England’s ratio of students to population.

The report also demonstrates that Greater Belfast has almost twice the proportion of students in its population as Derry. Some 35% of students from Derry go to Great Britain to study.

Padraig Canavan, chair of U4D, said: “Northern Ireland has a deficit in university places. That student deficit turns after graduation into a skills deficit. Every year we hand over thousands of our brightest and best and give them to Great Britain for it to boost its economy. We must keep more of our best people — and attract more from elsewhere. If Northern Ireland is serious about becoming a world class economy then we need world class graduates — and that means boosting the number of university places.”

Separate research by the group showed that Derry is within 1% of having the highest economic inactivity rate in the UK, which is in Liverpool. The rate of 34.2%, compares to an average of 21.1% in the UK. Other findings included that 29% of working age people in Derry and 40% in Strabane have no qualifications, above the 22% Northern Ireland average, while only 18% of people are graduates.

Average weekly pay in Derry of £359 is below the £417 Northern Ireland average and the UK’s £478. “This report makes clear that the economy of Derry-Londonderry and Strabane is terribly weak,” said Mr Canavan. “For the economy to become stronger requires higher local skills, which will drive higher levels of employment and higher pay.

“The way to achieve this is obvious — it is to expand Magee, so that Derry-Londonderry becomes a proper University City.”

Belfast Telegraph