2014 McKenna issues Northern Ireland HE Quality Warning Alert
Northern Ireland HE Quality Warning Alert
The former Vice Chancellor of the University of Ulster, Professor Gerry McKenna MRIA, has urged Northern Ireland politicians to either re-examine their policy of freezing student tuition fees* or accept declining standards of higher education provision and competitiveness relative to the rest of the UK. Professor McKenna was delivering a keynote address on behalf of the Society of Biology at ‘Science and Stormont’ - a meeting organised by the Royal Society of Chemistry through the Stormont All Party Group on Science and Technology. Professor McKenna, who is Hon Executive Secretary and President Emeritus of the Heads of Biomedical Sciences (HUCBMS), informed the meeting that as a result of the Stormont Executive being unable to make up all of the funding shortfall to achieve parity with other regions, Northern Ireland’s universities were currently receiving approximately £1,500 per undergraduate place less than their counterparts in England, with further major cuts to come**.
Professor McKenna also urged the re-establishment of a Northern Ireland Higher Education Council***, stating that an independent advisory body, acting transparently, was needed to advise the Department of Employment and Learning on higher education policy in Northern Ireland. He said that it was “naive to assume that the priorities and choices of two autonomous and unchallenged universities, acting independently and subject to various internal and external pressures, would invariably deliver policies and developments optimal for Northern Ireland in terms of subject mix, spatial distribution or societal need”.
**“the amount invested per university place in Northern Ireland is between £1,000 and £2,500 less than in English universities, depending on the funding band. To put this another way: the universities require an investment in the region of £25 million per year to remain competitive”.
Stephen Farry, Minister for Employment and Learning , speaking to Northern Ireland Assembly, 16 September 2014.
*** the Northern Ireland Higher Education Council was disbanded in 2006.