Northern Ireland

NI universities fees freeze 'a spectacular success'

QUB Pro-Vice Chancellor Tony Gallagher
Image caption QUB's Tony Gallagher welcomed the news

The decision to freeze tuition fees at Northern Ireland's universities is a "spectacular success", Queen's pro-vice chancellor has said.

"With the £40m gap plugged, we have certainty for the next number of years," said Tony Gallagher.

"We can get on with plans to give the highest possible quality student experience and make the best possible contribution to the economy of NI."

A significant numbers of jobs under threat were now safe, he added.

The Northern Ireland's Executive's decision means fees will remain at about £3,500 per year.

Speaking shortly after the news was announced, Mr Gallagher said: "We put out a challenge to the executive to meet their stated commitment around the fees situation and, as important, to meet their stated commitments around higher education."

The pro-vice chancellor said both those challenges had been met "head on" and dealt with.

A detailed statement about the implications of the fees freeze is due on Monday.

Currently, about a third of all students from Northern Ireland go to England and Scotland to study. However, more will now want to stay at home, given the difference in the fees.

"What we have suggested is that the cap on places in NI should apply only to NI students which allows us to protect places for NI students," Mr Gallagher said.

"If we are allowed to charge more for students from England, that gives us flexibility in dealing with the situation."

He said that it was important to recognise that increasing places at NI's universities was also costly.

"For every extra 1,000 places, that adds an extra £5m to the bill that the Department of Education and Learning (Del) and other departments have to deal with," he said.

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