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Positive debate needed on possible increase in tuition fees - Arlene Foster

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First Minister Arlene Foster hinted a rise in tuition fees might be considered (PA)

First Minister Arlene Foster hinted a rise in tuition fees might be considered (PA)

First Minister Arlene Foster hinted a rise in tuition fees might be considered (PA)

First Minister Arlene Foster has said there will have to be “a debate” about how Northern Ireland’s universities are funded.

Speaking on the BBC’s Inside Politics programme, the DUP leader also raised the issue of the level of university tuition fees in Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland students currently pay up to £4,275 a year to study in the region, less than half the £9,250 maximum paid by students who live in England.

She was discussing how spending priorities might have to be set for the new Northern Ireland Executive — and how funds may have to be raised from within Northern Ireland to meet any shortfall in funding from the UK government.

“These are all policy debates we need to have, but I do think we need to have a look at, for example, universities and how they’re funded,” she said.

But the First Minister ruled out introducing water charges, saying that the new Stormont Executive was “at one” on the issue.

“I don’t see the issue of water rates coming back onto the table again,” she said.

Mrs Foster also said that the new Executive needed to have more discussions with the Treasury in London about funding for recurrent expenditure which was not covered by the New Decade, New Approach settlement which enabled the restoration of the Stormont assembly last week.

“Government costs money: and when people say: ‘I want to have all these things dealt with,’ we have to say: ‘Where are our priorities?’” the Fermanagh MLA told the programme.

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