Student leader says budget must mean priorities change to invest more in skills

NUS-USI President Olivia Potter-Hughes has said the budget for Northern Ireland announced yesterday has to result in the Department for the Economy re-prioritising its funding to invest more of its allocation into HE and FE. Olivia said such a move is crucial to increase opportunity and grow the economy here, and also said that the budget allocation shows that NUS-USI has successfully demonstrated the importance of preventing the creation of a higher tuition fees system here.

NUS-USI President Olivia Potter-Hughes said: “We are disappointed that the Department for the Economy’s budget has not been increased to keep pace with inflation. The budget allocation for this department does; however, clearly demonstrate that NUS-USI has successfully shown the importance of avoiding an increased tuition fees system. We are glad that decision-makers understand the potentially devastating impact that any higher fees system would have on Northern Ireland students and the economy. There is still; however, uncertainty around how other elements of spending will be allocated within this department, and we need clarity on this as a matter of urgency.

“Despite there being no increase in budget allocation for Department for the Economy, there must be increased investment for further education and higher education, as well as apprenticeships so that we can create more opportunities for students and young people. This must happen through funding for Department for the Economy amending their funding priorities to deliver additional investment in tertiary education and skills. It is crucial that people here have the qualifications and skills to meet the skill needs of businesses considering investing here.

“The best way to prepare Northern Ireland to try and address potential negative economic impacts of Brexit is to invest in people here through providing increased funding for FE and HE course places, as well as for apprenticeships.

“I want to take this opportunity to also emphasise that it’s crucial that devolved government here returns as a matter of urgency to provide hope for a better future and to address the potential problems Brexit would create here. The Department must address the fears that many stakeholders have around cuts to tertiary education, because there is absolutely no excuse for any to be imposed.”

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