Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland tuition fees look set to rise

Danny Kennedy
Image caption Danny Kennedy said Northern Ireland was unlikely to follow the example of Wales on tuition fees

The minister responsible for universities has said NI cannot afford to follow Wales' example and keep tuition fees at the current rates.

Danny Kennedy said Wales can afford it because it takes in more students than it sends out to other areas.

The pegged tuition fees will apply only to students who come from Wales - all others will pay the new higher fees.

The Northern Ireland Assembly has not yet decided to approve an increase in fees or, if so, by how much.

However, the minister previously hinted he may find it impossible to avoid some sort of rise, despite an independent report commissioned by his own department, recommending that the current cost of fees be frozen.

Replying to an assembly question from Lord Empey, Mr Kennedy said that in 2009, Northern Ireland had only 200 students from other parts of the UK studying in it, while about 4,000 Northern Ireland students enrolled in British colleges.

He said therefore the Welsh solution was not a feasible option and could only be copied in Northern Ireland at a "very significant cost".

"Unfortunately, this essential fact and its impact on the financing of the Welsh proposals means that it is not really a feasible option for Northern Ireland," he said.

"Clearly, the decision by the Welsh Assembly government to invest very significant sums of public money in meeting any additional fee costs above the current levels for Welsh students, could only be replicated in Northern Ireland at a very significant cost."