Press Release

Committee Anger at Minister over student fee rise proposal

Session: 2008/2009

Date: Thursday, 13 November 2008

Reference: E&L 03/08

Proposals to increase student fees have angered Members of the Employment and Learning Committee. The Committee expressed its concern to the Minister, Sir Reg Empey, that a review on Departmental proposals to increase the fees for the next academic year will disadvantage students from low income homes.

Committee Chairperson, Sue Ramsey MLA explained, “Nearly a year ago we proposed a motion opposing any increase in student fees and, though the motion was narrowly defeated, the Minister promised to hold a review of variable fees and student finance.

“The Committee is astonished to learn today that only now has the Minister written to a potential Chairperson to see if they would take the post and outlining Terms of Reference for such a review.

Committee Members also expressed their unease at the timing of the proposed rises, raising tuition when so many families are struggling to make ends meet in the economic downturn.

Sue Ramsey said, “Recently the Minister announced measures to help apprentices who have been made redundant. Now the Minister is talking about increasing tuition fees next year—does he not wonder where families will find the extra money in these difficult times?”

Deputy Chairperson of the Committee, Robin Newton MLA, commented, “The issue of reviewing student fees and finance is of great interest to the Committee and to hard pressed families whose young people are considering whether they can afford higher education.

“I cannot believe that the Minister could believe it acceptable to send a letter on this matter to the Committee just minutes before a meeting to discuss it. I would have hoped that the Minister would have acknowledged that his proposal to raise student fees is of great concern to the Committee and would come to speak to us in person.”


Notes to Editors:
  1. The proposed Statutory Rule contains amendments to the Student Fees (Amounts) Regulations ( Northern Ireland) 2005 (SR 2005 No. 290); the principal Regulations to which amendments are made annually. It provides for the annual increases using inflationary forecasts provided by Treasury to the maximum amounts of basic and higher fee rate. These rates, for 2009/10 academic year will increase from £1,255 and £3,145 to £1,285 and £3,225 respectively.
  2. For an academic year of certain courses specified in regulation 4, for example, sandwich years, lower basic and higher fee amounts will increase from £625 and £1,570, to £640 and £1,610 respectively.
  3. The rule, if it comes into operation will revoke the Student Fees (Amounts) (Amendment) Regulations ( Northern Ireland) 2008 (S.R. 2007 No. 442) which came into operation on 1 September 2008.
  4. Position in Great Britain - the proposed rule aims to provide parity with its equivalent Statutory Instrument, the Student Fees (Amounts) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2008 (S.I. 2008 No. 2507), which was made on 24 September 2008 and comes into force on 1 September 2009.
  5. The Committee for Employment and Learning is a Statutory Departmental Committee of the Northern Ireland Assembly established in accordance with paragraphs 8 and 9 of Strand One of the Belfast Agreement and under Standing Orders 44-46 of the Northern Ireland Assembly. The Committee has a scrutiny, policy development and consultation role with respect to the Department for Employment and Learning and has a role in the initiation of legislation. The membership of the Committee since 9 May 2007 has been as follows:

    Ms Sue Ramsey (Chairperson)
    Mr Robin Newton * (Deputy Chairperson)
    Mr Alex Attwood
    Mr Paul Butler
    Rev Dr Robert Coulter **
    Mr Alex Easton ***
    Mr David Hilditch ***
    Mr William Irwin ***
    Ms Anna Lo
    Mr David McClarty
    Mrs Claire McGill

    Mr Alastair Ross replaced Mr Jim Wells on 29 May 2007
    *Mr Robin Newton replaced Mr Jimmy Spratt as Deputy Chairperson on 10th June 2008
    **Rev Dr Robert Coulter replaced Mr Basil McCrea on 15 September 2008
    ***Mr Alex Easton, Mr David Hilditch and Mr William Irwin replaced Mr Nelson McCausland, Mr Alastair Ross and Mr Jimmy Spratt on 15 September 2008

  6. Enquiries about the work of the Committee for Employment and Learning should be directed to the Clerk to the Committee, Room 283, Parliament Buildings, Stormont, Belfast BT4 3XX, Tel: 028 9052 1653 or email:
  7. Media enquiries to:

Debra Savage, Press Office, Parliament Buildings, Belfast, BT4 3XX;
Telephone 028 9052 1405
Mobile 07920 864221

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