UNIVERSITIES in Northern Ireland have warned that they will have to cut 1,100 student places in the fall-out from this week’s draft budget
DUP Finance Minister Simon Hamilton says the Department for Employment and Learning (DEL) is to lose almost £81m.
Queen’s University of Belfast and the Ulster of University said student places would be cut from next September.
The vice chancellors of the universities said their talented people were “one of NI’s greatest resources”.
In a joint statement, they said those lost to Northern Ireland universities would probably go to England or Scotland and pay £9,000 fees.
QUB’s Prof Patrick Johnston and the UU’s Prof Richard Barnett ssaid the Northern Ireland economy would suffer as a result of the cuts.
They described their students as “the lifeblood of local and international businesses, the research base and ultimately, our economy”.
“Higher education contributes £1.5bn annually to the local economy and is a key economic driver providing 8,000 high-quality graduates each year who are sought after by investors and indigenous businesses,” they said.
“The budget agreed by the executive has imposed one of the biggest cuts on the Department for Employment and Learning and, in consequence, the budget to higher education could potentially be cut by at least 10.8%.”
The leaders of the university said past experience suggested that the majority of those who left Northern Ireland would never return.
“In effect, the executive will be encouraging local talent to leave Northern Ireland whilst subsidising universities in England and Scotland,” they said.
The chancellors said the “devastating impact” on skills levels was clear but it was harder to predict the consequence of the cuts on the world-class research carried out at both universities.
“From improving survival rates for cancer patients to engineering new materials that aim to revolutionize the global aerospace industry, our universities are at the heart of internationally leading research,” they said.
“Some of the world’s greatest advances have been pioneered by our universities and Northern Ireland has the second fastest growing knowledge economy in the UK. The decision to cut the higher education budget places this achievement, and our future, at risk.”
In September, the University of Ulster told staff it was making an immediate £3.15 million budget cut due to financial pressures.