Belfast Telegraph

Growth hit by cap on student numbers

By Clare Weir

Firms in Northern Ireland cannot grow because of a cap on university numbers, it has been claimed.

Economic pundit and education campaigner Paul Gosling has claimed that the region is losing around 5,000 students per year.

"We need a strategy to attract young people back to Northern Ireland," said Mr Gosling.

"Inward investment decisions are based on available supply and that supply must anticipate demand.

"There are companies out there who want to expand but cannot, because of the lack of skilled graduates, even IT and engineering companies who are heralded as the saviour of our economy."

While England started to abolish its MaSN – maximum student numbers – in 2002, Northern Ireland has retained its MaSN, forcing more students to become "reluctant leavers" to university in Britain.

With the UK Government increasing the provision of university places by 30,000 places this year – and by even more in 2015, when it removes its remaining cap on student numbers – the report argues that the situation could get even worse.

Mr Gosling is part of the University for Derry or 'U4D' group and recently penned a report which says that Northern Ireland has the smallest university sector of any of the UK's four nations, meaning we are finding it harder and harder to compete in the global economy.

In the document 'Northern Ireland competitiveness damaged by graduate skills shortage – a review of the evidence', Mr Gosling estimated that Northern Ireland has one of the lowest rates of graduates per capita of any developed economy.

The Republic is also educating almost 50% more of its school-leavers at university level compared to Northern Ireland.

Belfast Telegraph