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Queen's University and Ulster University chiefs say a £100m higher education funding gap in Northern Ireland needs plugged

By Rebecca Black

The vice-chancellors of the Queen's University, Belfast and Ulster University say that serious decisions need to be taken over the future funding of higher education in Northern Ireland.

Queen's University Vice Chancellor Professor Patrick Johnston, told the BBC's Inside Business programme a rise in tuition fees, or a return to public funding, was required to bridge a £100m gap.

"We have some very critical decisions as a society to make very, very quickly, because we're already in trouble" he said.

"We're bringing corporation tax in in 2018, we actually today don't have the graduates to fill those jobs.

"We have to either come up with a number of solutions, one of which might be the public purse begins to fund the full investment in higher education that is needed, either fees or we have to get back to public funding."

Both universities announced last year that they plan to cut student places and jobs in response to a cut in funding from the Department of Employment and Learning (DEL).

Northern Ireland's two universities suffered cuts of more than £16m from DEL in 2015.

These funding cuts followed years of previous reductions.

Both universities subsequently announced they were shedding hundreds of staff jobs, and jointly cutting more than 2,000 student places.

Ulster University also decided to close its schools of modern languages and maths, among other cuts to departments, provoking an angry reaction from staff unions and some students.


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