Press Release

Assembly Marks Five Years of Bursary Programme

Session: 2013/2014

Date: Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Reference: SO 06/13/14

The Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly, Mr William Hay MLA today hosted a reception in Parliament Buildings to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the Assembly's Bursary programme. Organised in conjunction with Queen's University, the post-graduate programme leads to a Masters in Legislative Studies and Practice and has provided 33 bursaries since its launch five years ago.

This programme is the only Masters of its kind in Ireland or the United Kingdom. It benefits those wanting to play their part in future political life, whether as MLAs or public servants, and gives them an opportunity to gain experience in a working legislature.

The reception provided an opportunity for the Assembly to recognise the students' work and for current Bursary students to give short, informal presentations on their work during their placement.

Speaking at the reception, Speaker Hay said, "I am very pleased to celebrate five years of the Northern Ireland Assembly Bursary Programme and to recognise the students who have participated. During my time in office, this is a scheme in which I have taken keen personal interest as there is huge value in giving young people the opportunity first hand to understand how this legislature works, particularly in the context of a wider perception of young people being disinterested in politics.

"The programme has proved very successful, with past students progressing on to a range of posts such as an Internship in the European Parliament, working in the Scottish Youth Parliament and working with MLAs and political parties. I have greatly enjoyed my interactions with the Bursary students over the years and I am always struck by how much they take away from seeing directly the amount of work it takes behind the scenes to make the Assembly operate, something which does not come across in the media."

Professor Ellen Douglas-Cowie, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education and Students, Queen's University said: "Queen's has been very pleased to be a partner in the Assembly Bursary Scheme. Not only has it given a number of students an unrivalled opportunity to learn about the way government works, it has shown how successful partnerships between government and academia can be. I am confident that we will be building on this success in the years to come."

The Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly, Mr William Hay MLA, hosts a reception to celebrate five years of the Assembly’s Bursary Programme

Pictured at a reception to mark the fifth anniversary of the Northern Ireland Assembly’s Bursary Programme are: back row (l-r) Bursary students Stephen Orme, Martin McTaggart and Christopher Buchanan. Front row (l-r): Bursary students Laura Steele, Clare Rice; Professor Ellen Douglas-Cowie, Pro Vice Chancellor for Education and Students, QUB; Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly Mr William Hay MLA; Professor Rick Wilford, QUB; and Bursary students Megan Ward and Conal O’Hare. 


Notes to Editors:

The Assembly programme:

  • Develops students' knowledge of the historical and political contexts—regional, national and European—in which the Assembly operates;
  • Develops a detailed understanding among students of legislative practice through work-based learning in the Northern Ireland Assembly;
  • Develops students' analytical, communication and research skills.


The structure of the programme is: three months spent in three of the core Assembly business areas, an original piece of research (subject to be agreed with the Assembly) and academic modules to be completed at QUB.

At the end of the programme, students will have gained:

  • A thorough understanding of the workings of the Assembly as a legislative body;
  • A detailed understanding of the structure of government in Northern Ireland;
  • An appreciation of the history of and principal debates and issues in Northern Irish politics; and
  • An understanding of the European political context in which national and regional governments operates.

Applicants are required to have a 2.1 (or equivalent) Honours degree at undergraduate level in, as appropriate: politics, European studies, international studies, philosophy or a cognate subject area.

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