The Stormont Economy Minister is facing calls to remove the cap on the number of students which Northern Ireland’s universities can accept.
Trade union NIC ICTU has urged Diane Dodds to make the move after Education Minister Peter Weir reversed the decision which saw thousands of A-level grades reduced from teacher estimates.
This is expected to see significantly more students qualify for places at the Queen’s University Belfast and Ulster University.
The number of NI and EU students both universities can take is capped by Stormont as their tuition fees are partially funded by the Department for the Economy.
Ms Dodds is expected to bring forward proposals to Thursday’s meeting of the Executive around additional places and resources for the universities.
NIC ICTU has pointed out a cap on university places in England has been withdrawn.
The @NIC_ICTU Education Group calls on @DianeDoddsMLA @Economy_NI to lift the cap on University places in NI. Cap has been withdrawn in England. NI Students should not be let down or forced to attend university outside of NI if their desire is to go to University here (1/2)— NIC ICTU (@NIC_ICTU) August 19, 2020
The union tweeted: “NI students should not be let down or forced to attend university outside of NI if their desire is to go to university here.
“If the cap is not lifted this will not just impact on this current cohort but will have an impact for a number of years. This be felt for years to come.”
On Tuesday, Queen’s urged the department to give “urgent consideration” to the fact student numbers are “likely to significantly exceed the cap”, while Ulster said it is “actively preparing” for the anticipated additional demand.
Finance Minister Conor Murphy tweeted he is “happy to work with Executive colleagues to identify the necessary resources to achieve this”.
A spokesperson for the Department for the Economy said: “Until the local universities have received access to the full range of revised grades for all applicant students, they will not be able to confirm places for students or otherwise.
“As such, until this process has been completed, there is no way of assessing the number of any additional places there may be.
“The Economy Minister has stated that she will be working with Executive colleagues to ensure that any additional places that may be required, and extra resources, are put in place to support universities, and will bring forward proposals to the Executive tomorrow.”