Committee Anger at Minister over student fee rise proposal

Session: 2008/2009

Date: 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.”

ENDS

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