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No justification

Unite condemns Queens University Belfast fees hike plan
Donal O'Cofaigh, Tuesday, July 26th, 2016

NI Executive must take control of funding provided for higher education to ensure working-class children are not excluded, Unite has argued.


Sean Smyth, Unite regional officer with responsibility for the union’s membership in Higher Education has sharply criticised proposals by Queens University Belfast management to raise student fees further.


Proposals to increase fees are further indefensible at a time when senior management draw six figure salaries and students are leaving with five figure debts.


“While we recognise and support the case for additional funding for our universities, we believe that these latest management proposals make the case for the NI Executive to step in and take control of how taxpayers’ money is being spent in our higher education institutions,” Smyth said.


“It is completely indefensible to argue for a further substantial increase in fees while management receive inflated, six-figure salaries and students are left coping with five-figure debts.


“There is mounting evidence that young people coming from working-class or lower-income households are putting off higher education opportunities by the exorbitant fees being charged by universities in England and Wales,” he added. “Now Queens University appears to want to go down the same path.


“Funding provided through the maintenance grant is completely inadequate to meet the costs of university education,” he argued. “Young working-class people attending universities are faced with taking on unsustainable debts caused by fees and student loans, with little assurance of improved job opportunities in the future.


“Raising student fees has led to a reversal in social mobility trends. Increasingly a university education is beyond the hopes of many working-class young people.


Smyth asserted that it’s time the NI executive “took control of the £185m funding budget provided to the universities.”


“This is public money,” he said. “It is essential that it is used to prioritise the education of those coming from disadvantaged and working-class households. We need to open the door to everyone in society.”


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