Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2011/2012

Date: Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Venue: Room 29

The meeting opened in public session at 9.50 am.

1. Apologies

Apologies are detailed above.

2. Chair’s Business

The Chairperson updated members with details of his attendance at various events and meetings on behalf of the Committee.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to schedule a ‘cook-off’ event after the summer recess.

9.55 am Mr Jim Allister joined the meeting.

The Chairperson considered an issue raised by a Member regarding a Further Education College.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Minister for an update on this situation.

9.57 am Mr Barry McElduff joined the meeting.

The Committee considered a draft press release on Student Fees and Finance.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to return to this issue at a later point in the meeting

3. Minutes of the meeting held on 15 June 2011

Agreed: The minutes were agreed.

4. Matters arising

The Committee considered a draft letter to the Minister on DEL Engagement with the EU.

Agreed: The Committee agreed that this letter should be issued.

The Committee considered a list of matters arising from the previous meeting.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Department to obtain further information on the timeframe for an announcement on the policy on EMA.

5. Departmental briefing on the proposed merger of Stranmillis College and Queen’s University Belfast

Departmental officials joined the meeting at 10.04 am

Mr Fergus Devitt, Director of Higher Education, and Mr Billy Lyttle, Head of Higher Education Finance, briefed the Committee on the outcome of the recent public consultation on the proposed merger of Stranmillis University College and Queen’s University Belfast.

10.10 am Ms Michelle Gildernew joined the meeting.

10.14 am Mr Chris Lyttle joined the meeting.

10.28 am Mr Thomas Buchanan joined the meeting.

The briefing was followed by a question and answer session.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Department of Education for further information on the Teacher Demand Model.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Department for further information on its’ engagement with the staff and unions at Stranmillis University College.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Department regarding its engagement with St Mary’s University College.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to schedule a briefing from St Mary’s University College after the summer recess.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to forward the Hansard transcript of the session to the Department as the Committee’s response to the consultation.

Departmental officials left the meeting at 10.33 am.

6. Research papers on University Issues

The Committee considered two papers provided by Assembly Research and Information Service on The Economics of Higher Education, and Northern Ireland University Budgets.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to request further information on the differential return on higher education for women and men.

7. Briefing from Queen’s University, Belfast, on current issues

Representatives from Queen’s University Belfast joined the meeting at 10.37 am.

Mr David McIlveen declared an interest as his wife is a full-time PhD student at the University.

The Committee was briefed by Professor Sir Peter Gregson, Vice-Chancellor, Professor Tony Gallagher, Pro Vice-Chancellor, and Mr James O’Kane, Registrar and Chief Operating Officer, on the current issues facing the University.

10.50 am Ms Michelle Gildernew left the meeting.

The briefing was followed by a question and answer session.

11.33 am Mr Alastair Ross left the meeting.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to request further information on a number of the issues discussed.

The representatives left the meeting at 11.42 am.

8. Briefing from the University of Ulster on current issues.

Representatives from the University of Ulster joined the meeting at 11.43 am

The Committee was briefed by Professor Richard Barnett, Vice-Chancellor, and Mr Peter Hope, Chief Finance and Information Officer, on the current issues facing the University of Ulster. Professor Barnett also invited the Committee to visit any of the University campuses. The briefing was followed by a question and answer session when the representatives agreed to provide additional information on issues raised.

12.08 pm Mr David McIlveen left the meeting.

12.22 pm Mr Pat Ramsey left the meeting.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Department to request an update on its consideration of the business case for the expansion of Magee College.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to schedule a visit to the University of Ulster after the summer recess.

The representatives left the meeting at 12.46 pm.

12.47 pm Mrs Sandra Overend left the meeting

12.47 pm Mr Chris Lyttle left the meeting.

9. Correspondence

The Committee agreed to move to Agenda item 12.

The Committee considered the following items of correspondence:

  • A copy of a letter from representatives of the business sector to the First Minister and Deputy First Minister, asking for their support in maintaining funding for higher education institutions.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to note and acknowledge the letter.

  • Correspondence from the Committee for Social Development on the proposed Statutory Rule, “The Social Security (Electronic Communications) Order (Northern Ireland) 2011”.

Agreed: The Committee agreed that it was content with the proposal.

  • Correspondence from the Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities (NICEM) setting out its concerns about the implementation of the Agency Workers Directive.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to note the correspondence.

  • One example of a number of letters from employees of Queen’s University, Belfast, protesting about proposed cuts in Higher Education funding.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to note and acknowledge all the letters.

  • A letter from EGSA requesting an opportunity to brief the Committee.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to schedule a briefing after the summer recess.

  • A letter from the Open University requesting an opportunity to brief the Committee.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to schedule a briefing after the summer recess.

  • Responses from the Committee for the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister, the Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development and the Committee for Education, on the establishment of a working group to review the NEETs and Early Years strategies.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to arrange an informal meeting after the summer recess.

  • A response from the Department to the Committee’s request for a summary of responses to the public consultation on student tuition fees and finance.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to note this response.

  • A response from the Department to the Committee’s request for further information on the budgetary implications and the anticipated timescale for determining student tuition fees.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to note both this response and the Minister’s invitation to a breakfast briefing on the issue.

  • A letter from the Engineering Policy Group Northern Ireland asking to continue the relationship it enjoyed with the previous Committee.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to note the letter.

  • A copy of the response from the CBI to the public consultation on student fees and finance.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to note the response.

The Committee also noted a number of invitations received.

10. Subordinate Legislation

The Committee considered the SL1 proposal for “The Further Education (Student Support) (Eligibility) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2011”.

Agreed : The Committee agreed to request an oral briefing from the Department on the SL1 at its next meeting.

Agreed : The Committee agreed to defer further consideration of the proposal until after it had been briefed.

11. Briefing from the Department on the outcome of the June Monitoring Round

The Committee agreed to return to Agenda item 9.

Departmental officials joined the meeting at 12.50 pm.

The Committee was briefed on the outcome of the June Monitoring Round submission by Mr Trevor Connolly, Director of Finance, and Ms Maryann Smith, Finance Division. The briefing session was followed by a question and answer session when Departmental officials agreed to provide further information on the implications of the withdrawal of funding for existing PhD students.

Departmental officials left the meeting at 12.58 pm.

12. Briefing from Newly Qualified Teachers

The briefing did not take place as the witnesses were not available to attend the meeting.

13. Any Other Business

The Committee considered a draft press release on student fees and finance.

Agreed: The Committee agreed that the press release should be issued with a slightly amended form of wording.

14. Date, time and place of next meeting

The next meeting of the Committee will be held on Wednesday, 29 June 2011 at 10.00 am in the Linen Room of the Lisburn campus of the South-Eastern Regional College.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 1.00 pm

Mr Basil McCrea
Chairperson, Committee for Employment & Learning

29 June 2011

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