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Northern Ireland students saved £1bn thanks to tuition fees campaign


Successful: Adam McGibbon said report was ‘a good news story’ for Stormont

Successful: Adam McGibbon said report was ‘a good news story’ for Stormont

Successful: Adam McGibbon said report was ‘a good news story’ for Stormont

Northern Ireland students saved an estimated £1bn in tuition fees over a seven-year period after a successful campaign to keep them much lower than England, according to a new report.

The author calculated that £1.051bn was saved by students from Northern Ireland attending university here because they were not forced to pay the tuition fees charged in England.

Scotland charges no tuition fees while Wales has subsidies.

Adam McGibbon, a researcher and campaigner who was the vice president of Queen's University Students' Union and at the centre of the fees debate in 2010, described his findings as a "good news story" for Stormont.

"The main impact that is fairly certain is that Northern Ireland students are in less debt," Mr McGibbon, adding that the Executive made the "right and brave decision" in 2010 deciding not to "blindly follow" London.

Students from Northern Ireland, and the EU, paid £4,395 a year in fees. Students from the rest of the UK have to pay £9,250 if attending university here.

Mr McGibbon calculated the number by looking at the number of students from Northern Ireland and the amount they paid each year from 2012/13 to 2018/19. He compared that to the amount they would have paid to English universities.

According to his calculations, which he said are estimates that do not take into account tuition fee grants and other support, including to nurses or part time students, Northern Ireland students paid a total of £759m in fees over the period.

If the same number had paid the approximately £9,000 charged in England, that amount would be over £1.8bn, the report states. In 2018/19, for example, 27,985 students took out loans to pay £116m, or £4,160 each. If they had to pay £9,250, that amount would be £258m.

"The thousands of students who fought 10 years ago to stop tuition fee increases have saved the students who came after them over a billion pounds in avoided student debt," said Mr McGibbon, who works as a campaigner for political, environmental and other organisations.

He sourced the information through freedom of information requests and data from various government departments.

"Wherever they are now in the world, they should be very proud of that," he added.

Belfast Telegraph