The claim made by Naomi Long, the MP for East Belfast, during Prime Minister's Question Time, that "it costs 40% more to train a teacher here (Northern Ireland)than in England" (News, March 4) needs to be challenged.
The teacher education system in England is very different from the one that operates in Northern Ireland, not least in respect of higher student fees.
When fees are taken into consideration, alongside the series of budget cuts that have been imposed on the college, the annual total funding received per initial teacher education student is just over 2% more in Stranmillis than in the equivalent English institutions.
Further disparity arises in the different classification afforded to Stranmillis as opposed to other higher education institutions, which enjoy charitable status.
As a non-departmental public body, Stranmillis is more expensive to run than other higher education institutions, which, because of their charitable status, can, for example, benefit from charitable rates exemption.
In 2015-16, the rates bill will cost Stranmillis in the region of £88,000, with the balance of £245,000 being paid by the Department for Employment and Learning.
In justice to Stranmillis, freeing the college from the anomaly of non-departmental public body status would create greater efficiency in the system of teacher education and should be an immediate imperative for the Northern Ireland Executive as discussions on the review of initial teacher education continue.
DR ANNE HEASLETT
Principal, Stranmillis University College