N Ireland tuition fees to stay same
Student fee rates in Northern Ireland are to remain largely unchanged, the Stormont Executive has decided.
Ministers agreed to retain the cap below £3,500 a year despite pressure to follow moves in Great Britain to significantly increase costs of attending university.
Fees for Northern Ireland students attending local institutions will now only rise marginally in line with inflation over the next four years.
A £40 million gap in the budget of Stormont's Department for Employment and Learning (DEL) created by the decision will be plugged by top-slicing funds off other departments.
DEL minister Stephen Farry hailed the outcome of the meeting with fellow executive ministers at Stormont Castle this afternoon.
"My overarching concern is to ensure that Northern Ireland continues to have a world class higher education system and that university study is available to all, irrespective of background," he said.
"I am grateful to my Executive colleagues for working with me to collectively address this very important issue.
"I am now in a position to take final policy decisions that will shape the future of the higher education sector in this region. The Executive's decision clearly demonstrates the recognition of the importance of higher education for our economy.
"Our universities fulfil a crucial role as economic drivers, contributing positively to skills, research and development, and a knowledge-based economy."
He added: "I intend setting out my decisions on the future policy on higher education tuition fees and student finance arrangements in a statement to the Assembly on 12 September."